Birmingham Branch members attended the Local Government Conference and National Delegate Conference in Brighton recently and as a flavour of what went on in these conferences , some members have written their reports.
Carol Garfield, who works for Schools wrote:
National Delegate Conference was held in Brighton. The Motions covered many issues and it was good to get a bigger picture of our union and debate issues outside of Local Government.
Composite A, a strategic review of UNISON, was very contentious, it had lots of good arguments against. It was generally agreed that we need a review but the feeling amongst the membership was that Branches should have more input and control of what happens to membership fees. If Comp A carried then motion 129 about Branch funding would fall and this is where the membership were not happy. As a Branch we had decided to vote in favour of the review but after hearing the debate and in view of 129 falling, we thought it in our Branch member’s interests to vote against. The motion clearly fell but the chair deemed it carried and delegates were not happy. It took almost 5 minutes of protest from the floor for the chair to call a card vote and I believe that this highlights a general lack of trust in our NEC. As a teller for West Mids region this was exciting for me as I had to leave the floor to help in the card vote count. It meant I didn’t get a lunchtime but was worth the experience. The card vote result showed that Comp A fell by approx 60/40.
Our Branch Motion on how and why Universal Credit is unfit for purpose was put into Composite D and I spoke to it. It was carried.
We enjoyed several guest speakers including our president, Margaret McKee, general secretary, Dave Prentis, Loretta Johnson from the American Federation of Teachers and a video message from Jeremy Corbyn who was due to speak but was called away.
Jeremy Corbyn sent a video message
My favourite speaker (and my all time hero ) was Angela Rayner the Shadow Secretary Of State for Education who gave an entertaining and very inspiring speech. I particularly admire her as someone who had no formal qualifications on leaving school but gained an education through UNISON. She thanked UNISON for helping her and giving her the support to get where she is today (Angela for Leader)
Angel Rayner speaking
Conference is full on, tiring and at times you feel like your brain will explode but I enjoyed every minute of it and felt honoured to be elected to represent our members at such an important event.
Steve Barnett wrote:
Unison national conference 18th-22nd June 2018
I arrived in Brighton around 3:30pm & made my way to the hotel, dropping my bag off before going to the Brighton Centre for the West Midlands welcome meeting in one of the smaller rooms.
I met all of my colleagues from Birmingham & chatted to others, then off to find something to eat & to watch the England match, back to the hotel & an early night.
Woke up every morning, bright & early 5:15am every day (damn seagulls). Had a quick walk each morning along the beach, before getting back to the hotel for breakfast with my Unison buddies.
Conference was very engaging, some inspiring speeches, some very harrowing, especially about the Grenfell towers.
I found it emotional at times, some very dedicated people were there.
Mandy, Carol & Caroline got up to speak to conference on matters that are happening in Birmingham. They spoke with passion & integrity, made me very proud to be associated with them.
Branch Secretary Caroline Johnson speaking
We heard that Jeremy Corbyn was hopefully going to attend conference on the Wednesday, but he could not get away from Parliament as they were debating & voting on Brexit, he sent a video message instead.
I was amused & a little disgusted with the chair & the NEC on a few issues especially on the amendment on motion 129, it was quite obvious that the vote was against the proposal, (by a long way) but it was passed anyway, before the crowd made their feeling known, by calling out for a card vote.
This went on for a number of minutes before the chair had no choice but to ring his bell & have a card vote. Justice prevailed in the end when the against vote far outweighed the for vote.
On the Friday an inspirational speaker was the shadow secretary of state for education Angela Rayner, what an amazing woman.
All in all, I found the conference interesting, engaging, eye opening & a great way to meet other colleagues from around the country, it is good to know that there are a lot of likeminded souls around.
Looking forward to the next one
Membership Officer Martin Carroll wrote:
For those who plucked up the courage to speak, well done! It was great to listen and see delegates from around the country putting their point across in a passionate and eloquent manner, and great to see members from the Trans community standing up at the podium receiving applause which ripple through the conference hall.
One thing that became very apparent during the conference is that UNISON is a lot larger than our branches. In other words, we do not tend to see the bigger picture. Individual branches may at times feel isolated and abandoned yet as we came from all parts of the UK, from sunny Torquay, to the northern emerald isles and from the tip of Dundee, attending conference helps you realise very quickly that as an organisation we are a family that is committed, empowered, has a shared common goal and has a sense of purpose.
It was a great personal experience for me. It was thoroughly enjoyable.
First timer Alison Gooden reported:
I felt at home with many 1st Time Attendees / Speakers (I did not speak on this occasion), interesting the welcomes given to '1st Timers'.
I am not a workplace rep but am active otherwise with the union SOG group.
I attended for the 3 days at the weekend and overall found it to be interesting, including some of the welcome meetings and information form the market place stalls. I departed after the weekend.
The informal group meals were an opportunity to get to know others whom I have not met before.
Overall I came back feeling on a positive note in general.
Should the similar opportunity present in the future I would like to attend again, I saw this is a development opportunity.
Roschella Griffith wrote:
As a relatively new activist this was both my first Local Government and National Delegate Conference and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, though I was pleased that I had the opportunity to experience both, and directly observe the contrasts and similarities.
It was enlightening to be amongst so many passionate fellow members, colleagues and comrades, hearing and respecting varying opinions and ideas on an array of topics, as well as hearing stories from our international colleagues which were truly inspirational.
Conference is a platform for activists and members to feel somewhat empowered, with a sense of collectivism, a surge of mixed emotions, and unequivocally exceeded my expectations.
If you are a Steward/Rep and you would like to go to the Conference next year, please get in touch to find out more.
reports on motions carried can be downloaded below Download Download the national delegate conference decisons File