By Dan Bye, Branch Secretary
UNISON’s National Delegate Conference is often described as our Union’s “annual parliament”. Delegates from Branches across the country, representing over a million members, attend to decide UNISON’s policies and priorities.
This year the conference took place between 18th-21st June, in Liverpool, and I attended as this branch’s delegate. Proceedings can seem complicated and intimidating to the first timer, but it is always interesting to listen to the debates on motions, and it doesn’t take long to get the hang of things.
Motions passed included a condemnation of the murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich, which also expressed concern at the exploitation of the tragedy by the EDL. Another motion pledged to resist Tory-led coalition attacks on welfare and to build an “alternative vision of welfare provision for the 21st century. A statement of solidarity with striking Future Directions workers in Rochdale was passed: they are in dispute over huge pay cuts and attacks on their terms and conditions. There were debates on international issues too, an important element of UNISON’s work.
Conference also approved some rule changes – these needed a two-thirds majority in order to pass. Branches will now be required to set an annual budget, and to maintain financial records using UNISON’s national online branch accounting system (known as OLBA). At SHU we are already doing both. Another rule change means that in future all branch funding will be paid into branch accounts in only one bank – the trade union movement-owned Unity Trust Bank. Again, at SHU we are already banking with Unity Trust.
Another rule change means that retired members will need to pay the appropriate UNISON subscription rate should they return to work. If they return to work where UNISON are not organised, then they should join the appropriate union. They could resume retired membership later. The previous rule was unclear.
A further change amended the rules on unemployed membership. The previous rule allowed members dismissed or made redundant to become “unemployed members” for up to two years (so long as they remained unemployed). The new rule extends that benefit to members who leave their jobs after accepting a compromise agreement as an alternative to dismissal.
Finally, the rule on qualifying periods for legal assistance was changed. The old rule said that you had to have been a member for 4 weeks before knowing that you needed legal assistance; the new rule simply states that you have to have been a member for 4 weeks. This makes the situation much clearer and also makes the case for joining the Union straight away much more powerful!
If you want to read more about what happened at conference, you can do so here: http://www.unison.org.uk/about/events-and-conferences/conference-updates/