UNISON and Devolution

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2015 National Delegate Conference
23 February 2015

Conference notes the debate around devolution which occurred in 2014 impacted on all parts of the United Kingdom with the referendum on Scottish independence and the subsequent Smith Commission; the passage of the Wales Act 2014; the increased momentum behind combined authorities and “City deals” in England; the Conservative Party’s proposals around “English Votes for English Laws” in the Westminster Parliament; and the Stormont House Agreement in Northern Ireland at the end of the year.

Conference recognises that the debate on fiscal and legislative devolution is fast moving across the UK and that public opinion across the United Kingdom does not provide an endorsement for a single proposal. Conference also recognises that between 2010 and 2015 the Coalition Government cynically sought to use aspects of the devolution debate to justify the attempted introduction of regional pay in the public sector, to undermine the provision of public services through the promotion of outsourcing and privatisation and as a tactic to either pass on or avoid blame for the drastic spending cuts they inflicted on public bodies and devolved administrations in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Conference also recalls that in 2004 National Delegate Conference brought about rule changes for UNISON which led to the establishment of a Devolution Protocol for the union in 2005. This Devolution Protocol was necessary to allow the union to reflect on differences in policy, bargaining and communications across the nations and regions of the United Kingdom – as well as to facilitate learning from different experiences. Rule B 2.7 states that it is intended “To devolve to regions policy making responsibility in relation to devolved administrations while maintaining the integrity and unity of the union”.

Conference believes that there is a bargaining agenda that unites the union around:

1)Collective bargaining in the public, private and voluntary sectors;

2)Low pay, living wage and fair pay;

3)Equal pay;


5)Decent pensions;

6)Rights and conditions for part time workers;

7)Ending vulnerable and casualised work;

8)Skills and access to training;

9)Safe working environments.

Conference therefore calls on the National Executive Council to:

a)Unite all UNISON branches and UNISON regions around a vision of quality public services, social justice, fair taxation and fair funding;

b)Continue to support the principles behind Rule B 2.7;

c)Provide a framework within existing structures for UNISON regions in England to take a view on city-region proposals outside London and on any new proposals for changes to London governance;

d)Work with service groups on their bargaining priorities across the UK;

e)Unite the union around our national recruitment and organising priorities;

f)Update and improve the existing UNISON Devolution Protocol and its implementation;

g)Work with UNISON regions on their policy and campaigns to ensure the continuation of the universal provision of public services.