Rough Guide to Conference 2015
With up to 2,000 delegates and visitors, Conference can be a daunting prospect, especially if you don’t know what’s happening. But now you will, thanks to SiU‘s handy guide.
- Scotland meeting
- Procedures, Credentials, Seating Plans
- Speaking, speakers lists, timing
- Handy hints
- Blinkin’ lights and points of order
- All you need to know about Conference mysteries
Monday sees the all Scotland delegates meeting to give last minute information and discuss Scottish input. Other regions and branches attend to lobby support for their motions. It is also your chance to push your issues.
Monday 15 June 5.30pm Strathclyde Suite, Royal Concert Hall. 2 Sauchiehall St Glasgow (top of Buchanan St)
Local Government Branches Meeting
5.00pm Saturday 13 June in UNISON House, 14 West Campbell Street, Glasgow
There should be a seating plan in this pack. We traditionally get at least one seat wrong – so if you find yourself sitting on someone’s knee, it’s likely to be a mistake.
Credentials Bar Code
No this is not a secret sign to get a drink. Your credential card has a bar code which will scan you in. You must wear the card at all times. Wearing it at your waist is not helpful to the scrutineers, will lead to delays and may end up with more than you expected being scanned!
This prints all motions submitted. It also has more detailed useful information. You will also get a booklet with composite motions, listed by letters of the alphabet (usually with the numbers of the motions in brackets).
Speaking, speakers lists, timings
Seats for speakers FOR and AGAINST are labelled at the front. If in doubt, staff at the Rostrum Control will help.
In any case it is best to tell them you want to speak because they will have a list – and with amendments it is not always clear which seat you should be in. It also helps to speak to the Scottish Regional Delegates first!
Speakers can speak only once in a debate (except for the right of reply).
Movers get five minutes. However, Conference sometimes reduces this. You will get warning to chainsaw all those bits you loved dearly out of your speech. Subsequent speakers get three minutes.
Always start your speech by giving your name and your branch.
HANDY HINT: Have a brief closing remark ready in case you run out of time
Right of Reply
The mover of a motion is allowed a Right of Reply at the end of the debate or before voting on an amendment (but not both). This is a reply to points raised in the debate and cannot be abused by introducing new stuff (although many try it).
Normally votes are taken by holding up bright coloured cards and the President will decide whether a count is needed.
If it is close, or a major issue is involved, the chair can call for a branch card vote. Delegates can also call for a card vote but only if 10% of us shout out with voting cards up immediately. If this is on an amendment, the debate is suspended until the result is known.
Branch card votes are stamped with the voting entitlement of your branch and with either FOR or AGAINST.
The correct number must be used for the particular vote. Get a colleague to check it.
Like any other formal meeting, Conference is run by a series of rules. This often seems very bureaucratic but the system ensures some semblance of order is kept. The President chairs Conference and their ruling on any issue is final.
If you split your vote, make sure the figures add up. Get someone to check.
- make sure you’ve SIGNED it.
- and that the branch name is on it.
Get your photo in advance
- If you haven’t done it online, get your credential photo in advance. Photo booths are few and far between.
- We hope the Briefings will be of some use to you. But for safety, do not leave papers on the floor.
- Don’t leave mobile phones on.
- Don’t walk in front of the signers.
- Lots of people will be pushing papers at you as you come to Conference. Not taking one does not make you a bad person! If you took them all, you would be like a walking rain-forest anyway.
Blinkin’ lights and points of order
AND A RANGE OF OTHER HANDY HINTS
Timing for speeches is shown by lights on the rostrum but even if you don’t notice the light, there is always some bright spark who will shout ‘time’, usually when they’re not agreeing with you.
It can be useful to have an ‘escape clause’ in your speech to cut to so you can finish on a good note.
The lights mean….
Yellow: means the speaker has a minute to go.
Red: means ‘zip the lip’ now, and not after you’ve made ten more points.
Green: means a point of order has been raised and will be heard before the next speaker.
Points of Order
You can move ‘next business’, ‘adjournment’ or ‘private session’ but the most used is ‘that the question be put’. The President must put this to Conference and, if carried, we go straight to the right of reply, and the vote on the motion or amendment. (The chair can caution there has not been enough debate.) This move is especially helpful when there are a host of speakers fora motion and none against. You can only move most points of order if you haven’t already spoken in the debate.
Did I just miss something?
ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CONFERENCE MYSTERIES
After years of being caught out by jargon and sneaky procedural wheezes, your SiU scoop brings you a rough guide to help you out.
Standing Orders Committee (SOC)
Comprises reps elected by each Region (ours is Alison Jaconellie) and three from the NEC who organise the order of business, composites and so on. A report will be issued each morning on the day’s business and probably future business – this is really important to understanding what is going on. Sometimes their rulings are challenged but it rarely makes sense to do so since the committee reflects Regions’ priorities.
Most motions haven’t got a chance of being heard and will be referred to the NEC, or somewhere. So it is worth looking to see what position the NEC has taken on your motion.
Agenda and Priorities
The running order (you’ll get one at Conference) is set after consultation with regions on priorities. Motions are grouped into ‘themes’ to avoid duplication and the risk of voting against what we’d voted for earlier (yes we’ve done that before!).
Come Friday (oh, come, come Friday), there is a chance to re-prioritise your pet motion that was not reached. On Wednesday or Thursday, we will circulate branches with a form to pick their priorities for Friday afternoon. These will be collated and go to the SOC which will set out a Friday pm agenda that reflects Conference’s wishes. That can be an eye-opener!
Conference has to vote to hear emergency motions in the first place (after the SOC has decided it is an emergency and is relevant and competent). To qualify for an emergency, it must have been impossible to submit the motion’s subject matter before the deadline.
An amalgam of similar motions drawn together into one motion that nobody likes! Not fair really, because many composites do succeed in combining areas of agreement through negotiation. You will get a composites booklet before Conference and new ones issued throughout the week.
Suspending Standing Orders
A super wheeze (needing a two thirds majority) to get an outside speaker up or do something that’s not on the agenda. To be avoided in most cases because it cuts across agreed priorities and of course stops Conference making decisions.
Where a pile of similar motions and amendments are all moved one after the other, there is an all-in debate and we vote on them one after the other at the end.
Reports, such as the annual report or standing orders report, are presented to conference for approval. If someone is unhappy with part of the report they can ask for “reference back”, meaning that committee or working group that prepared the report should reconsider that section.
When the NEC asks for a motion to be referred to them for further clarification, elaboration, or investigation.
Lilian Macer and Stephen Smellie are this year’s Scottish Regional delegates. They are there to help, especially if you want to get into a debate – they’ll tell you how, who to see, and if you’re not careful (or lucky), what to say! Sincerely folks, they are an essential source of advice, information and help.