‘Together we are stronger’ NEC hears after Derby success

School support staff congratulated after for successful dispute

Together we are stronger. That was the key slogan of the Derby school support workers, and it is a simple lesson to learn from the success of their 10-month dispute, UNISON’s national executive council heard in London this morning.

The dispute, sparked by the employer cutting hours and wages of teaching assistants and other school staff in 73 schools, featured heavily in general secretary Dave Prentis’s report to the meeting.

He was proud to report a settlement in the dispute, which included 73 days of industrial action, adding: “We learned a lot along the way, about campaigning, about getting parents and the electorate to support our members.”

Derby branch secretary Nicole Berrisford said the dispute showed that “if we come together, we can achieve what we want,” adding that the dispute succeeded because “we worked well with the region and head office”.

Another strength of the dispute, shesaid, was that it was member led – “the members organised themselves; we just facilitated that”.

During the campaign, the branch “went to every school and spoke to every one of our members about what they wanted to achieve”.

And as a side effect, the branch identified new stewards among the school workforce and recruited new members.

Mr Prentis added that the union will be using what was achieved in Derby in continuing negotiations taking place on a similar dispute in Durham involving 1,700 union members in the county’s schools.

The general secretary also said UNISON will be urging members to take part in a joint-union lobby of Parliament on 6 June over cuts to school funding.

The meeting also:

  • received an update on pay and negotiations across the union, including preparations for an industrial action ballot in Scottish local government;
  • heard that new regulations have been produced as part of the Trade Union Act, meaning that the union will need to make agreements with around 8,000 employers over check-off arrangements for union subs;
  • heard a report on the next stage of the Public Service Champions campaign in the run-up to May’s local elections (see champions.unison.org.uk) and the phenomenal success of the 15 Minute Care Makeover (savecarenow.org.uk/petition) viral film produced as part of the Save Care Now campaign.

Turning to recent international events, the executive condemned “the horrific chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun in north-western Syria on 4 April, which killed at least 80 people” as well as “any bombing raids by foreign governments which could exacerbate and prolong the conflict.”

Full statement on Syria

The NEC also continued its preparation for June’s national delegate conference in Brighton and

  • agreed its policy toward motions on the NDC preliminary agenda,
  • adopted amendments to motions which it will submit to the conference’s standing orders committee,
  • agreed its policy toward proposed amendments to the union’s rules,
  • agreed the draft NEC annual report for endorsement by NDC,
  • received an update on organising to date for the conference, including timetable and possible guest speakers.

The NEC also agreed its 12 priority motions for debate at the conference, which will now be considered alongside the priorities from the union’s regions and self organised groups.

These cover:

  • Challenging Racism and Xenophobia (motion 87);
  • Fighting Insecure Work (motion 53);
  • Developing an Organising Branch (motion 1);
  • Protecting Workers in Supply Chains through Ethical Public Procurement (motion 58);
  • Challenging the new Conservative economic agenda (motion 49);
  • International Trade, EU Exit and Trump (motion 62);
  • Getting the public on our side – public service campaigning (motion 39);
  • Pay – Tackling In-Work Poverty (motion 20);
  • Increasing Participation and Activism Through Learning (motion 9);
  • Workers’ Rights in Turkey (motion 64);
  • The Integration of Health and Social Care – responding to the challenges (motion 28);
  • Exiting the EU – a fair deal for workers and public services (motion 73).