“UNISON is again leading the way on employment rights,” general secretary Dave Pentis told the UNISON national executive council when it met in London today, on the same day that the union’s legal representatives appeared at the Supreme Court over careworkers’ right to be paid the minimum wage for sleep-in shifts.
On top of that, Mr Prentis told the meeting, UNISON is taking more industrial action than any other union.
Despite the 2017 Trade Union Act, designed to make it harder for workers to take action, he said, in more and more local disputes, mainly involving women, the union is reaching the 50% ballot turn-out target the law requires for action to take place.
In particular, he cited the recent successful action by NHS workers in Northern Ireland demanding pay parity with colleagues in the rest of the UK.
The dispute won the reinstatement of Agenda for Change terms, and was instrumental in restoring the Northern Ireland Assembly and executive at Stormont as ministers needed to be in place to agree the deal.
“It was a tremendous dispute and a tremendous achievement,” said Mr Prentis.
Speaking on the eve of the union’s women’s conference, he listed a string of disputes across the union and across the country and pointed out that “very low-paid women are turning round and saying: ‘We’re not accepting it’.”
And that is why UNISON is being successful. “We as a union should be encouraging members who want to take action and helping them do it.”
The meeting also had initial discussions on plans for this year’s COP26 international climate emergency summit in Glasgow.
It also condemned US president Donald Trump’s Middle East ‘plan’ and reiterated UNISON’s long-standing support for the Palestinian people’s rights, and condemned the latest deportations of people who have lived in the UK since they were small children.
The NEC also agreed 12 motions to submit to this summer’s national delegate conference:
- combating the rise of discrimination through activist training;
- growing activism in the union;
- Palestine – the right to defend human and workers’ rights;
- solidarity with Zimbabwean workers;
- campaigning for public services after the 2019 general election;
- green UNISON and the climate emergency;
- organising for health and safety;
- insecure work and digitalisation in the workplace;
- protecting migrant workers’ rights;
- mobilising members in defence of the NHS;
- Pay Up Now – time to reverse a decade of damage;
- the risk of post-Brexit UK trade deals.
In addition, it agreed to propose rule changes to conference, covering;
- Rule C2 – categories of membership;
- Rule C7 – suspension.
The meeting also:
- received written updates on bargaining in the union’s service groups and current industrial action ballots;
- received an update on the NEC conference plan;
- approved the management accounts for the 12 months to 31 December 2019;
- received a progress report from branch resources review working group.