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2013 National Women's Conference
17 October 2012
Carried as Amended

Conference notes UNISON’s proud record on working towards equality both in its internal structures and in its bargaining and campaigning agenda.

Conference notes that one of the key strategies for UNISON to achieve equality of representation and engagement within UNISON has been proportionality.

Proportionality is defined as “the representation of women and men in fair proportion to the relevant number of female and male members comprising the electorate”.

At the creation of UNISON in 1993, following years of consultation and negotiation, this was a radical, exciting and relatively untried development in union organisation. At that time there were no clear precedents to follow, and much work was undertaken with the aim of establishing a progressively more accurate reflection of the whole membership on the key decision making bodies in UNISON by the year 2000. Conference remains conscious that much work is still to be done on achieving and maintaining proportionality.

Conference notes that at national delegate conference 2012, a rule amendment was submitted to remove “woman” from the definition of the reserved low pay seat. Further, that in the South East region of UNISON there is provision for a reserved low paid man’s seat on the regional committee, in direct contravention of UNISON’s rules on proportionality.

Conference further notes that public sector cuts have played a huge part in job losses; that women make up two thirds of these workers, and that unemployment amongst women has increased massively and is at its highest level in twenty-three years. The Fawcett Society called it a ‘triple jeopardy’ to highlight the threefold attack on women: an attack via job cuts in the public sector; a reduction in the core public services that women rely on for themselves and those they care for, and an attack via slashed benefits – all of which threaten a huge step back in women’s equality. Public service workers, the majority of whom are women, have come in for some of the government’s fiercest attacks – enduring another year of pay freezes, pay cuts and redundancies, on top of being asked to pay more and work longer for a poorer pension.

Conference recognises that there has never been a more important time for women to be actively involved in UNISON; women involved in campaigning, in collective bargaining, and in negotiating on behalf of our women members.

Conference confirms its commitment to achieving and maintaining proportionality at branch, regional and national levels of UNISON.

Conference instructs the National Women’s Committee to

1) Update the information and guidance on proportionality

2) To vigorously monitor proportionality statistics at all levels of UNISON

3) To communicate with regions and branches about the need to actively work towards proportionality

4) Raise the concerns in respect of the SE region reserved low paid man’s seat with the NEC, and request that they give consideration to ruling that the seat be either deleted or re-designated:

5) Continue to speak and lobby in opposition to the removal of “woman’s” from the definition of the low paid woman’s seat;

6) To report back to conference in 2014 on progress.