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25 June 2014

Unison conference: members call for united action

Neil Cafferky

Unison conference, which met on 18-20 June, was dominated by three debates: strike action over pay, the Labour Party and a lack of democracy on the conference floor.

The democracy issue was most visible on social media when a motion on violence against women was ruled out of order by the Standing Orders Committee (SOC) on the grounds of "legal jeopardy". This provoked a storm of criticism against the Unison leadership and the SOC on Twitter.

There was also disquiet on the conference floor as the motion was just one of a number of motions deemed to be controversial that the SOC ruled out of order. In a Catch-22 style turn of events one motion requesting the union seek legal advice regarding a council setting a no-cuts budget was ruled out of order on the grounds of "legal jeopardy"!

The question of the Labour Party was a constant refrain throughout conference. After four years of Labour councils doing the bidding of Con-Dem central government there was a sharp mood of anger against Labour on the conference floor.

This anger was only heightened by Miliband's photo in the Sun the previous week. Even the Labour supporting leadership felt the need to reflect this anger with general secretary Dave Prentis asking what Miliband was thinking.

Anti-cuts councillors

Delegate Paul Couchman received one of the biggest cheers when debating a motion calling for Unison to work with "sympathetic Labour councillors". Paul simply asked: "Who are these Labour councillors?"

He then urged Unison delegates to stand as independent candidates against councillors who vote for cuts.

Delegates' thirst for radical policies could clearly be seen in the overwhelming vote for renationalisation of the energy companies. Moving an amendment, Glenn Kelly called for no compensation of big shareholders, saying: "Frankly, they are lucky not to be on trial for the premature deaths of 32,000 people last winter." Delegates showed their approval with a big round of applause.

Since Unison conference, Unison local government workers' vote for strike action has been announced. Anticipating the vote, many delegates underlined the importance of health and local government coming out together.

Unison Bureaucracy Unmasked: The Defend the Four Story

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