The morning session of conference was given over to Motions on combating the Government’s austerity programme. Motion 10 “Bargaining Through Austerity” focussed on the effect of austerity on the terms and conditions of our members and committed us to continue to bargain for improvements.
Composite E urged us to continue and reinvigorate UNISON’s fight against the increasingly bleak economic programme of the Tories and put forward credible economic alternatives.
There was a lively debate around a proposed amendment calling for the nationalisation of the top 150 companies and banking system. The Manchester branch, along with most others weren’t able to support the motion. Particularly given the unknown effect on our member’s pension schemes, in some cases large shareholders in some of the companies.
The highlight of the morning was an address from Frances O’Grady the current TUC General Secretary, the first woman to hold the position.
Her excellent speech was well received, supporting UNISON and our Branch’s position on many things. She vowed to back us within the TUC on a large scale demonstration in support of the NHS, and to co-ordinate with us in our campaigning on public sector pay. Her commitment to trade union solidarity was simply put: “if we fight together, if we stick together, we will win together.”
The final item in the morning was on motion 85: Disability Hate Crime. A fundamental issue in our society lead to a heartfelt and often emotional debate with many excellent if on occasion harrowing speeches and stories. President and Chair Chris Tansley recommended that the debate be continued into the afternoon session to allow for further speakers to be heard.
The afternoon session focussed on organising and attacks on facility time. The debates proved surprisingly uplifting. For every speech referring to an attack on facility time there was another where a branch had fought off an attack or won increased rights. Many speakers commented on their successes in organising in smaller more dispersed workplaces or employers, providing some new ideas and insights for branches like ours who represents staff in hundreds of different workplaces.
Thursday will focus on international debate in the morning including motions on Columbian, Palestine and Solidarity with Nicaragua.
The afternoon session is the occasionally contentious rule change debate when your branch will be voting to keep the young member’s top age at 26 rather than a proposed change to 29.
We will of course report on all the debates tomorrow. If you want to grab your agenda and see how the branch is voting on each motion as it happens then do follow us on twitter @UnisonMcr.