Tuesday marked the first day of the 2013 UNISON National Delegate Conference.
The first item on the agenda was simply entitled “Welcome to Liverpool”. It proved to be a rousing welcome from guest speaker Ricky Tomlinson.
Ricky gave an impassioned speech on the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign and his desire to over turn the miscarriage of justice he and other pickets endured as a part of the 1972 National Building Workers Strike.
The campaign has been fraught with issues most notably the unwillingness from Government for documents relating to the case to be released. Ricky was clear that the campaign has “a fight on our hands for full disclosure”. Some of the documents still remain embargoed for decades in the interest of national security.
An e-petition for a parliamentary debate has seen thousands of votes not registered, to the point where a paper petition is now being used. A potential early day motion still remains unheard. Never afraid to let his true feelings know Ricky simply said “if this is democracy you can kiss my a***”.
Ricky was followed by an address from UNISON President Chris Tansley, who informed us that Ricky Tomlinson once introduced him as “my body double for the sex scenes.” Chris outlined the work he has been doing around the country as president and thanked all those who have worked with him.
Following the procedural issues of the Standing Orders Committee report the business of conference began with Manchester Branch Secretary Pat McDonagh speaking on Employment and Trade Union Rights.
As Pat said “the Coalition Government is attacking the historic achievements of the labour movement”. Pat talked through the changes to employment tribunals, that in addition to now having to be an employee for two years before an employee can lodge an unfair dismissal claim from this month workers will now have to pay fees of £1200:
“Where lodging an employment tribunal has previously been about a worker exerting a citizenship right to have an external opinion on an employer decision, the introduction of fees turns filling in an ET1 form into something closer to filing in a betting slip”.
Pat also paid tribute to our 114 members working for Future Directions in Rochdale where they are taking industrial action that was initially blocked by an injunction from the employer.
Following a debate on combating racism in football, General Secretary Dave Prentis addressed conference. Dave talked about the many achievements of Branches and members around the country and outlined the things our activists will be working towards in the year ahead.
Dave also outlined the things he will expect from a Labour Government if we are to support them, including an end to privatisation, investment in public services and a repeal of the Tory Health and Social Care Act.
The afternoon also saw a debate on NHS and Social Care integration. The debate highlighted the need for a national social care service, free at the point of need, based on the same principles as the NHS. Many delegates spoke bravely on their personal or family experience of private sector care organisations, in what was at times a highly emotive debate.
Fringe events included a meeting on the Review into the Resourcing of Branch Resources and a packed Cuba and Venezuela Solidarity event.
To follow Manchester branch voting and speeches as it happens follow us on Twitter: @UnisonMcr and check the website tomorrow for further updates.