NEC plans for the coming year

Meeting hears reports from general secretary and presidential team, recommits to work on Gaza, and discusses plans for national delegate conference

UNISON centre sign

UNISON’s national executive council (NEC) met yesterday, for the first time this year, to discuss a substantial agenda, including the motions the council will be taking to national delegate conference in June.

In her report opening the meeting, general secretary Christina McAnea applauded the achievements of 2023’s Year of Black Workers – not least in building a legacy for going forward.

She noted that this year is the union’s Year of LGBT+ Workers, adding that she would be encouraging all branches and regions to ensure they supported and made a success of it.

Ms McAnea reported on “a very cold 24 hours in Belfast”, as health, social care and education members took industrial action, which “helped to finally force the return of politicians to Stormont”.

She reported that, with the Northern Ireland Assembly once again sitting, “catch-up health pay negotiations for 2023 can start”. Elsewhere, preparations for the 2024-25 pay claims across the UK are “well under way”, she said.

With so many councils facing financial crisis, the general secretary observed that UNISON, as the biggest union in local government, had been warning for years of the risks of councils going bankrupt because of underfunding from central government.

She applauded the UNISON turnout at the recent Cheltenham demonstration to defend the right to strike. It had been “a good, upbeat event” and the union is continuing to work with the TUC on what would happen if employers attempt to use the anti-strike minimum service legislation.

Ms McAnea also told the meeting that the union is continuing to press ahead with whatever it could do regarding the ongoing situation in Gaza.

A ‘fantastically political’ conference

The meeting also received a report from UNISON president Libby Nolan, who reiterated the importance of humanitarian aid for Palestinians and Israelis affected by the war in Gaza, and stressed what a vital issue it is for UNISON.

Ms Nolan celebrated January’s “fantastically political” Black members’ conference and also highlighted the importance of the Year of LGBT+ Workers.

In discussions, the meeting highlighted the scale of cuts at councils, with one NEC member saying, “It could be the end of local government as we know it.”

The council received a report into the union’s organising to win strategy, which explained that, by the end of last year, recruitment rates were in “net growth”. The highest such growth was in schools, particularly in school branches in Scotland and Northern Ireland. There had also been an increase in new activists.

In an industrial action update, the council heard that there is “lots of action going on” at present, with recruitment and retention both up as a result.

The council also approved a report on the union’s finances and heard a further report on the union’s work on the COVID Inquiry, to ensure that those who were working on the front line during the pandemic have their stories put on record, that the lessons are learned and the right people are held responsible for the lives lost.