This year we gather in Brighton for UNISON’s 23nd National Delegate Conference (NDC) and I would like to like to extend a very special welcome to all and particularly to our first time delegates and visitors to Conference.
Since we met last year in Glasgow our agenda has been extremely busy and our commitment to achieving the best possible outcomes for our members has produced positive results.
UNISON branches in Scotland have been at the forefront of leading the fight to protect public services against a backdrop of social and economic austerity measures impacting on vital services.
This coupled with the government’s Trade Union Bill has seen a sharper focus on the UNISON Scotland priority, campaigning for the type of society we want to live in, a fairer Scotland, protecting our members and the public services we deliver.
UNISON’s relentless campaign against the Bill since its inception has achieved several significant u-turns, and the watering down of aspects of the legislation. However, we remain vigilant to the attacks on our rights as trade unionists and continue our campaign against this piece of legislation that should never have existed.
It is an attack on the trade union and labour movement driven by politics and ideology rather than common sense.
As we meet in Brighton, on 23 June our nation faces a decision that will define its future. A once in a generation opportunity to either work to revitalise Europe, or walk away for good.
The NEC has taken the decision that the UNISON position will be to encourage our 1.3 million members vote to remain in Europe.
However we must ensure that we engage our members, moving the debate away from the right wing politics of hatred and racism to our agenda for an EU that delivers equality and social justice.
The result of the May 2016 Scottish Election is in some part not a surprise, with the SNP gaining in its share of the Scottish vote, however not returning with an overall majority.
A crushing defeat for the Scottish Labour Party which once dominated politics in Scotland with the Tories pushing them into third place.
This will potentially give rise to consensual politics within the Scottish Parliament something that UNISON has called for in relation to public services for some time.
The SNP manifesto should give an indication of the next Scottish Government’s programme. It offers some opportunities and challenges for UNISON Scotland, as it impacts upon our members at work and in their communities.
In March 2016 the Fair Work Convention published a framework with a vision that will see, by 2025, people in Scotland having world leading working lives where fair work drives success, wellbeing and prosperity for individuals, business, organisations and society.
Only by organising in the workplaces will we continue to deliver for our members, therefore we need to double our efforts around organising, building our union in size and strength. A strong effective voice for working people delivering high quality public services day in and day out.
Our message is that high quality public services are affordable and can be funded through fair taxation; this is the basis for decent services provided by properly rewarded staff and is the key to achieving our social objectives.
I look forward to seeing you and importantly hearing you in the debates and focussed discussions over the week of National Delegate Conference.