NEC hears of another Supreme Court win for UNISON

Meeting also discussed arrangements for national delegate conference

UNISON centre sign

UNISON’s national executive council, meeting yesterday, heard that the union had just won the case of Fiona Mercer in the Supreme Court. General secretary Christina McAnea said that it means that, “today, the court has agreed that the (UK) law is incompatible with international law, because it does not protect workers from ongoing victimisation by employers if they have taken legal industrial action”.

The case had been won in the employment appeal tribunal, but the then business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng intervened and took the case to the Court of Appeal, which subsequently decided to reverse that decision in March 2022.

Now, Ms McAnea said, that had been overturned in a judgement that was scathing of the UK government.

In her report to the meeting, the general secretary noted that it has continued to support the organisations campaigning on Palestine.

“We had a really brilliant presentation at health conference from Richard Pyle from Medical Aid for Palestinians, who spoke very movingly but very honestly about the reality of what it’s like for people working on the ground in Palestine,” she said.

“The union is also in talks with the Palestinian Embassy about what we can do, practically, to help on the ground in Gaza.”

Continuing to push on with the union’s campaign for a national care service, she stressed that the Labour Party is “on side” and has assured the union that this, and the commitment to a Fair Pay agreement for care workers, is high on their agenda.

And she told the meeting that she had attended the United Nations (UN) as part of the Public Services International delegation, to speak on the issue of care.

After the Dudley Mitie strikers won their fight to be paid the government’s promised COVID bonus for all health service staff, Ms McAnea spoke of the continuing campaign to get “that money across the board” for all those working in the health service, but employed by private contractors.

Speaking of the problems across local government, with many authorities facing the possibility of going bust, the general secretary said she is raising this with the Labour Party. She emphasised that unless they tackle this issue one of the first problems they will face in government is the collapse of many local authorities.

She also talked of the problem of rising violence in schools and said that UNISON will be looking to create a “huge campaign” on this, as it is becoming an “increasing issue”. This is particularly because it’s almost always UNISON members – support staff – who bear the brunt of violence in school settings.

Ms McAnea also welcomed the signing of the union’s Ethical Care Charter with the council in Lambeth.

The meeting also passed a report from the presidential team, with UNISON president Libby Nolan saying that she and vice-president Julia Mwaluke had attended women’s conference in February, where she herself had spoken of “the societal damage by this Tory government” and its profound “impact on service for women and children.

“In the fifth richest country in the world, the UN is expressing concern that children in this country are experiencing unprecedented levels of poverty and hunger.”

The report also spoke of the ongoing crisis in Gaza, noting that the UN has called the situation “a war against women and children”.

The meeting discussed the arrangements for national delegate conference in June – in particular, the council’s own provisional policy on motions and proposed amendments, together with proposed rule changes to the unions annual parliament.

The council also received reports on organising – highlighting good recruitment and retention figures – service group pay campaigns and national industrial action.