Trade Union Bill campaign will be the priority, says executive

‘Our aim is to make sure this legislation is not carried’, NEC meeting hears

UNISON’s campaigning priority over the next few months will be the Trade Union Bill currently “worming its way through the House of Lords,” the union’s national executive council heard at its meeting in London today.

“Our aim is to make sure this legislation is not carried, rather than concentrate on what we’ll do after it’s carried,” Dave Prentis stressed in his general secretary’s report to the meeting.

“This is achievable. We can do it.”

UNISON is working closely with other unions and the TUC on the campaign, the NEC heard, particularly on issues around industrial action and balloting,

This includes lobbying for electronic and phone voting – plus properly scrutinised ballot boxes in workplaces – to be allowed, which would really increase participation in ballots.

But union members can be proud of their role in the campaign to date, including the UNISON turn-outs at October’s national demonstration in Manchester and November’s lobby of Parliament.

That saw “very large numbers of UNISON members, many of whom queued for two to three hours to see their MP,” recalled Mr Prentis.

But now the focus is on the next stage of the campaign – and any member, branch or region which has a relationship with a member of the House of Lords should use it to push the case against the bill, and lobby on particular attacks such as ballot thresholds, union reps’ facility time and on DOCAS – members’ right to pay their union subs by having them deducted from wages.

On the wider campaigning front, the NEC urged branches and members to gear up for the TUC week of action on the Bill on 8-14 February. You can find out more about the week on a dedicated campaign website at

“This is a week to make a real difference,” the NEC declared.

Find out how you can get involved in UNISON’s campaign on the bill at

The NEC congratulated those involved in the union’s campaign on government plans to cut tax credits and noted that Chancellor George Osborne’s U-turn on the cuts in his autumn statement was a victory for the union.

“However, the autumn statement in general was bad for us, particularly local government and caring,” Mr Prentis told the meeting.

“We are still paying the price for the 2009 crisis in public services and have a huge battle on our hands.”

And this affects the whole union, including:

  • police budgets are still having to deal with reductions, although the chancellor said he wasn’t pushing ahead with planned new cuts;
  • the health service has still got to make £22bn of so-called ‘savings’ – in reality cuts;
  • plans to axe the NHS bursary for nursing and other health professional students; which UNISON has responded to with a new campaign – Save the NHS Bursary – and will host a nursing summit on the issue in January;
  • continuing cuts to further education colleges which have led to an industrial action ballot.

The NEC also thanked Environment Agency, police, health, local government and other members who had dealt with the aftermath of floods in the North West of England, and expressed its solidarity with everyone who was affected by them.

UNISON members affected by the floods can approach the union’s welfare charity There for You for support and help (link ).

The meeting also:

  • agreed the union’s objectives for 2016;
  • endorsed the statement on UK bombing of targets in Syria issued by the general secretary on the eve of the parliamentary vote;
  • received an update on pay bargaining and campaigns across the union’s various service groups;
  • approved the union’s budget for 2016 and received the accounts for the first nine months of 2015;
  • received an update on recruiting and organising.