UNISON prepares for a campaigning year

First NEC of 2017 covers campaigning to defend the NHS, anti-Trump protests, industrial action and preparations for national delegate conference

UNISON sign at the union's centre in London

UNISON will play a key role as part of the campaign against newly inaugurated US President Donald Trump’s proposed state visit, the union’s national executive council decided at its first meeting of the year in London this morning.

The meeting agreed to support the Stop Trump UK campaign after general secretary Dave Prentis warned that the union’s hard won successes getting the health service excluded from the TTIP US-EU treaty could be undermined by Theresa May signing a  trade deal with Trump which would see the NHS opened up to private US companies.

Meeting ahead of a memorial event for late president Eric Roberts at TUC Congress House, the health service featured highly in the NEC’s debates and the meeting recommended support for the NHS demonstration on 4 March to tomorrow’s meeting of the union’s health service group executive.

Mr Prentis’s general secretary’s report noted that UNISON is facing “very difficult times” with new rules and thresholds on industrial action ballots coming into effect under the 2016 Trade Union Act.

But the Act presents a challenge for the union which we should work to meet, said Mr Prentis, adding that “we need members to be involved from the start” not just for ballots but “for the sustained action” needed to win disputes.

He pointed to high-profile action by school support staff in Durham and Derby where “absolutely wonderful” UNISON members are fighting back against losing up to a quarter of their wages after cuts to hours and rates.

He congratulated the members involved for their steadfastness – including 20 days of action in total in Derby – and promised full support from the union, pointing out: “All we’re asking for is money back that the employers have taken from our members.”


In other business, the executive

  • approved the union’s draft accounts for 2016,
  • received an updated on the review of UNISON’s political fund arrangements and rules required by last year’s Trade Union Act, hearing that the government had relaxed its timetable and any necessary rule changes would now be considered by the 2018 conference,
  • was updated on pay campaigns and industrial action across the union’s seven service groups, including an earlier timetable for drawing up the joint local government pay claim for local government in England, Wales and Northern Ireland,
  • heard that recruitment  is going very well, but the union is still saw total membership fall by more than 30,000 in 2016.

The meeting was also updated on plans for June’s national delegate conference in Brighton.

The NEC agreed 12 motions to submit to the conference, covering:

  • increasing union participation and activism through learning,
  • developing organising branches;
  • workers’ right in Turkey;
  • ethical public procurement to protect workers across the supply chain;
  • responding to the challenges of integrating health and social care;
  • international trade, EU exit and Trump;
  • a fair deal for workers and public services when exiting the EU;
  • tackling racism and xenophobia;
  • pay and tackling in-work poverty;
  • fighting insecure work;
  • challenging the ‘new’ Conservative economic agenda;
  • public service campaigning and getting the public on our side.

It also agreed proposed amendments to the union’s rules, for debate at the conference, on data protection and on when recruits become members.