To the collective relief of those who have spent 10 years looking at branch funding, UNISON’s Special Delegate Conference, in its first debate, backed the proposals from the Branch Resources Review.
Conference also supported an amendment from National Disabled Members Committee (NDMC) moved by Scotland’s Kathleen Kennedy on behalf of NDMC, calling for the pooled resources for reasonable adjustments for conferences proposed in the Review, to go further and apply to all UNISON meetings.
Moving the motion, Josie Bird, who chaired the review, reminded delegates that the review began 10 years ago and has picked up pace over the past two years following a motion at 2019 delegate conference. She laid out the proposals which will result in most branches, especially those in need, getting additional resources. The review has been widely consulted upon and branches, regions and devolved nations and self-organised groups have all had the opportunity to participate. She highlighted the focus on lay control.
However the proposals go further than just branch funding, said Josie, setting out a series of practical supports for branches too, to encourage participation.
Not all delegates supported the proposals, with some feeling it did not go far enough. However, Scotland Convener, Lilian Macer, the vice chair of the review, spoke strongly in favour, challenging some of the opposition to it. She highlighted that the proposals give “the ability to effect transformational change, flexible to meet the needs of the priorities set in regions by a lay committee with governance arrangements overseen by lay members in the region.
“What’s not to like?” asked Lilian.
She challenged claims that the package is “insufficient” pointing to the fact that in this package, UNISON will give 25.5% of income to our branches, whilst the GMB gives 10% to branches and Unite 7.5%.
She also pointed to the commitment from the new General Secretary for a wider staffing review which will importantly include the staff and their trade unions.
“As activists we should all agree that this is the right thing to do.,” said Lilian, pointing out that the biggest spend on staff is in the regions.
“As our survey said, branches wanted more support from the region not less,” she added.
“This package is fair, affordable and sustainable – leaving no branch behind- ensuring all our branches are active and vibrant,” said Lilian, adding that this is the start of the journey and calling on delegates to take the first step.
Scotland’s Kathleen Kennedy told delegates that the national disabled members’ self-organised group supported the motion and thought the proposal to create a national pool for reasonable adjustments at conferences “is such a good idea that it should be extended to all UNSION events – whether meetings or training sessions.”
Kathleen said: “Our amendment is about equalities which is not about treating everyone the same, it is actually about removing barriers to have an equal playing field for all members.”
She warned that at present, disabled members are unable to become more active in the union because of a lack of access to reasonable adjustments.
“Disabled members have a lot of experience and skills to give to our union. We just need the reasonable adjustments we are entitled to by law so that we can perform to the best of our ability and overcome the barriers that society places in our way.”
(Story: Kate Ramsden, Photos: Inez Kirk)