Thursday morning, as is traditional, was reserved for international issues. This is also traditionally a morning of serious, intelligent debate and for some delegates to see a new side of the work UNISON does.
We began with a solidarity photo in support of the Columbian trade unionist Huber Ballesteros, the Vice President of FENSUAGRO, Colombia’s Agricultural Union. Huber has been held since August of last year on false charges of terrorism and rebellion.
You can see footage of the conference on YouTube:
We also saw a message from a defiant Huber, secretly filmed in his cell and smuggled out of prison. Columbia is the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists and and all UNISON Branches are being urged to show their solidarity and affiliate to Justice for Columbia (www.justiceforcolumbia.org). We will be taking this proposal to our next branch executive committee for agreement.
The afternoon session was, by contrast, more introspective, looking at the internal working of the union. Particularly the ongoing Branch Resources review.
One controversy was that motion 113 had already been withdrawn and this was commented on by some delegates in their speeches. This motion would have been opposed by our branch as it meant money being taken from our reserves for redistribution to other branches.
One speaker said that some branches “weren’t ready for that.” The comment implies that we are in someway behind the times, or need to catch up. This isn’t the case. We genuinely believe that this is the wrong approach and not what Manchester Branch Members want.
Moving money round in this way is not the answer. The change we really need is for more money to be assigned to branches, rather than being held centrally. Unfortunately due to one motion being defeated and another withdrawn we weren’t able to get this voted in. Hopefully next year we will be able to address the issue.
The rest of the afternoon was devoted to rule changes. Some are simply tidying up the rule book, such as changing the address. Others gave new rights to our retired members which will enable them to take a more active role in the union.
We also tweeted updates throughout the day on twitter, which you can follow to get all the latest branch news in the future @UnisonMcr