Devolution and the Impact Upon (Trade) Unions

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2010 National Delegate Conference
3 June 2010

Conference welcomes the fact that devolution of political and economic powers, in varying forms to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is now an established part of the United Kingdom. UNISON has always supported devolution and been amongst advocates of further developing the devolution settlement.

Conference notes that the potential for different ways of doing things in devolved territories provides opportunities for UNISON to promote models of best practice in campaigning, organising, bargaining amongst the differing territories of the UK.

However as well as providing an opportunity, devolution also presents a challenge the varying demands of which have been discussed and procedures agreed in UNISON’s devolution protocol.

The nature of devolution means separate demands on UNISON resources in devolved territories. In Scotland over 95% of UNISON members work in services which are devolved. In Wales, the Welsh Assembly government has devolved powers over many fields including, local government, health, education and training.

This places additional demand on the union in Scotland and Wales in terms of:

1)Bargaining, where only a minority of members in Scotland and Wales are part of UK wide negotiating structures, and with a Welsh referendum on further powers on the horizon, differences are likely to increase;

2)Legal work in Scotland, where UNISON deals with a growing body of primary legislation and a separate legal system;

3)Communications – often UK campaigning material is unsuitable for use in Scotland and Wales and the media landscape is distinct to that in the rest of the UK;

4)Policy development, UNISON Scotland and UNISON Cymru/Wales have to deal with separate legislative and administrative systems, responding to increasing amounts of legislation as well as Parliamentary and Welsh Assembly inquiries.

Conference recognises that similar issues are faced in Northern Ireland.

Within this there need to be joint working and effective communication to ensure that UNISON in devolved territories is always pursuing national objectives.

Conference believes that following a decade of devolution, and as political parties and devolved bodies themselves examine how the devolved system is working, that UNISON should also re-examine how it operates in regard to devolution

Conference recommends that the National Executive Council consider greater resourcing of bargaining, legal, communication and policy development resources in the devolved territories, and explore mechanisms for how lessons about best practice and achievements can be learned across UNISON.