NEC hears of ‘terrible things happening to civilians’

Meeting agrees donation to Medical Aid for Palestinians and the Red Cross

UNISON sign at the union's centre in London

Meeting in London yesterday, UNISON’s national executive council (NEC) reiterated the union’s response to the unfolding events in the Middle East.

General secretary Christina McAnea spoke of the “terrible things that are happening to innocent civilians,” noting that the union had put out two statements – the first in conjunction with the international trade union movement – condemning the attacks by Hamas, calling for the release of all hostages, stressing that there must be a ceasefire and that “all sides to abide by international law”.

The statements observed that neither the killings by Hamas nor the collective punishment of the Palestinian people in Gaza will advance the cause of peace, and reiterated UNISON’s policy of the need for a two-state solution.

The meeting agreed to encourage branches and individuals to donate to Medical Aid for Palestinians or the Red Cross, with a donation from the NEC itself of £10,000 to be shared between those two humanitarian organisations.

In her report to the council, Ms McAnea also highlighted “yet another great victory in the courts, in the Supreme Court – about unfair deductions from workers’ pay”.

She went on to say that UNISON is a joint signatory to a letter calling on the government for clarity on which schools are affected by the crumbling concrete crisis.

On equal pay, she stressed that finding evidence of the gender pay gap “can sometimes be quite tricky”, but on Fair Pay for Patient Care, the general secretary noted that the union was “winning cases across the UK” and “organising on the back of this campaign”.

On the industrial action in schools and early years in Scotland, Ms McAnea reported that there had been an improved offer on pay, but in a consultation, this had been met with a “97% rejection on a 57% turnout”.

In the run up to the general election she observed, pay is likely to continue to be a problem – particularly as the Conservative government will want to be seen to be “tough” on unions. Although she observed that such an approach “hasn’t helped them much thus far”.

And she suggested that the NEC put out a message of thanks to “all the emergency workers and first responders who had to deal with all the recent flooding in the UK – “that’s the unseen work of UNISON members”.

Ms McAnea said that UNISON’s Year of Black Workers was drawing to a close, that she had attended a number of great events during the year – particularly citing the second Much More Than You Are event at Newham Hospital – and that it is crucial that the legacy of this year be taken forward.

She also told the council about Labour’s National Policy Forum, where the union won great commitments on workers’ rights and also a pledge to bring back national pay bargaining for school support staff.

The union is also preparing its submission for the Covid Inquiry and, after that, will be working to encourage members to contribute their personal testimonies about the pandemic to Every Story Matters.

UNISON president Libby Nolan called on activists to attend a demonstration outside the Home Office on 4 November, organised by Stand Up to Racism.

She also appealed for council members to go back to their branches and regions and spread the word about her presidential charity for 2023-2024, Swansea Asylum Seekers Support.

It was also reported that Ms Nolan had attended and helped at a community fun day organised by Stand Up To Racism in Llanelli, Wales.

The meeting also:

• discussed how the union is responding to the government’s planned legislation on minimum staffing levels during strikes;

• received an organising update, which included the importance of branches being ballot ready.

• agreed a financial statement;

• discussed elections procedures.