The rules debate traditionally takes place on a Thursday afternoon and in recent years has become one of the most exciting and participative parts of the agenda, with many rule changes hotly contested.
This year was no exception. A number of Scottish delegates were at the podium during the debate.
Speaking for the National Disabled Members’ Committee, Kathleen Kennedy joined conference in wholeheartedly supporting the call by young members for an annual conference.
She said that disabled members already have a conference and they very much value the opportunity to come together to discuss issues relevant to them. “Young members should have the same opportunity,” said Kathleen.
Kathleen later returned to the podium to support a rule change ending the requirement to send out the UNISON rule book to new members in favour of an electronic version unless specifically requested.
This was approved by conference but Kathleen called on the NEC to continue to make reasonable adjustments to make sure the rule book is accessible to all disabled members.
NHS Glasgow, Clyde and CVS Branch, Elizabeth Rankin supported a rule change which would have given branches the option to hold elections for branch officers every two years rather than only annually as at present.
Elizabeth pointed out that such a change would first have to go to a quorate AGM and become part of branch rules, thus “putting control over the decision in the hands of the members.”
She added that the Scottish Women’s Committee has recently changed to biennial elections, bring it in line with the national Women’s Committee, and she believes it has been beneficial.
“It really does give new members the opportunity to grow into their new roles and we can deliver a stronger work plan on behalf of our members,” said Elizabeth, calling for branches to be given flexibility to meet the needs of their membership and activists.
The rule change, which was opposed by the NEC and UNISON Scotland policy, did not receive the required two thirds majority and fell. However, it is a regular in the rule change debate so we may not have seen the last of it.
Mags McGuire then opposed a rule change that sought to prevent branch members being both a branch chair and a branch treasurer. This was proposed by the NEC amidst fears that there are not enough checks and balances in this situation to ensure probity.
Mags warned that the rule change will put smaller branches in an extremely difficult position, as with all the other branch work stewards undertake, they simply don’t have the time to take on officer roles.
She pointed to the robust processes already in place, enhanced by the requirement to use OLBA for financial record keeping, which can be monitored by regions and head office.
“In an ideal world, all officer roles would be held by individuals but we do not live in an ideal world,” said Mags. “Spare a thought for the smaller branches who have a limited branch officer structure yet strive to provide an effective service to their members.”
After a full debate, the decision went to a card vote. This showed a clear two thirds majority so the rule change was approved.