The issues facing us have never been bigger

Campaigning on Trade Union Bill at the fore of plans for coming year, NEC hears

“The issues we’re dealing with in our union have never been bigger,” UNISON’s national executive council heard this morning.

“Our future as a union is at stake,” general secretary Dave Prentis told the London meeting. “Our ability to organise and represent members in 20,000 employers is at stake.

“We need to put in place measures not just to stop this government but to grow and strengthen our union.”

In particular, the NEC agreed, the government’s Trade Union Bill currently going through the House of Lords is the biggest threat faced by the union, with a real danger that “many people will lose the protection of their union” if membership drops.

The meeting was updated on the campaign to defeat the bill, including lobbying members of the Lords, plus preparations to deal with the consequences if the bill does become law.

These include preparations to allow members to pay their subscriptions if public sector employers are banned from facilitating payments from wages – the check-off or DOCAS system.

As part of this, the NEC was updated on plans to improve contact details for members, including a prize draw, running to early May, to encourage members to correct or supply fuller contact information.

The NEC also agreed a draft interim rule change to protect both UNISON’s subscription income and the union’s ability to campaign politically if the bill’s attack on political funds becomes law.

Turning to this year’s national delegate conference in June, the NEC agreed to submit motions on:

  • trade union facilities;
  • strengthening get our union – supporting and developing our stewards;
  • opposing DFID’s privatisation agenda;
  • eradicating exploitation in supply chains;
  • welfare and work – social security provision for all;
  • fairer taxation and the future funding of our public services;
  • public service workers under pressure;
  • public service campaigning – stop outsourcing and protect members;
  • health and safety of public service staff;
  • living standards, pay justice and the living wage;
  • building the campaign against European Union trade and investment agreements;
  • the Trade Union Bill.
  • In addition, the meeting also agreed a report and motion on the branch resources review to go before conference.

The executive will put forward rule amendments to be considered by the NDC covering electronic balloting and a number of proposed rules on involving private-sector members more.

And with the possibility that conference will coincide with a likely EU referendum, the NEC agreed to carry out a branch consultation on whether or not UNISON should have a recommendation on an in/out vote in June, without prejudging any policy decisions of NDC itself if the referendum comes later.

The executive heard that there was an overall increase in membership in membership, with 30% of new joiners coming from the private sector, and an increase in young recruits.

But the figures came with a warning that while there were fewer leavers in 2015, recruitment was also down and more job cuts are in the pipeline for the services UNISON organises in.

The meeting received an update on current pay campaigns and industrial action, including the strike in English further education colleges on 24 February and the strike vote at Action for Children.

The NEC also:

  • agreed messages of support to further education members taking industrial action next week, and to NHS junior doctors in their dispute;
  • approved the management accounts for 2015.