Saturday, June 20, 2009

Change of name

So this blog is now 'James's NEC update' and the address is

As of 5pm yesterday I stopped being the Young Members rep and took up my new seat representing the West Midlands, which meant I felt it needed an update.

But the blog will continue to keep members up to date on what I do for them in the West Midlands

Friday, June 19, 2009

What a week! Conference done for another year

National Delegate Conference will never be quite what you expect as you head in, and this year was completely different.

On the first day the General Secretary called for a major change of tack in our political work, which the Labour Link structures will be addressing over the coming weeks, particularly at the Labour Link Forum (the conference within the affiliated structures) in two weeks time.

Some real progress has been made on the unions structures, with the creation of the Police and Justice Service Group, the Community Service Group and the merger of Water and Environment and Transport Service Groups, now WET. Conference also redefined Sectors to be our bargaining units, and create Occupational Groups which will cover specific staff groups such as Nursing & Midwifery. It was disappointing that the rule changes that would have given members in sectors proper autonomy over their own pay and conditions fell but I’m sure this will be addressed in future years.

Another big disappointment was loosing the rule amendment which would have allowed the union to expel BNP members within the context of the new employment legislation. This was strangely mobilised against by the left with who seemed paranoid that it was about them and that their own parties could fall foul of UNISON’s most basic objectives of equality. A damming indictment of their own organisations!

After the conclusion of the Conference the old NEC change to the new (so I no longer represent Young Members specifically and now represent the West Midlands), and with all up for grabs the NEC meet briefly at the end of conference to elect the Presidential Team. Unfortunately this meeting could not go ahead because someone who is not a member of the NEC was present, with the support of our far left colleagues. I hope it was a coincidence that in all likelihood we would have been celebrating our first black Vice President tonight and that this had nothing to do with their wrecking actions!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Looking ahead to Brighton - National Delegate Conference 2009

I know from the many Facebook status updates I've seen today that a lot of people are getting ready to head to Brighton, especially those heading to Local Government Conference and going down tomorrow. I thought I'd set out some of the highlights and the things to look out for.

Young Members meeting and social

Young Members get the opportunity to meet other young members at the Conference, hear from the delegates of the National Young Members Forum about things the forum are interested in on the agenda, and get raise any issues.

Young Members meeting 8pm Tuesday in the Buckingham Room at the Hilton Metropole

Followed by the 'Secret Gig' Young Members Social at 9pm with The Perils (but you have to come to the meeting to find out where)

Having decided to shelve our newsheet last year we instead have a social, and this year promises to be amazing! A 'secret gig' with the band The Perils as well as a DJ. But to find out about the venue you have to come to the meeting!

Structures review

Young Members business

The NYMF have submitted 2 motions and 2 amendments all of which will hopefully get heard. First up will be 'Developing our commitment to apprentices' which highlights the work that has been done and what needs to be done in the future. The other motions (which is quite high up what's known as the 'snake' or remaining order of business) is 'Young and Active: in our workplaces, in our union, in our society' which looks at the importance of involving young people in those different aspects including Votes at 16.

The two amendments have been brought within composites (where similar motions and amendments are mixed together into a new 'composite motion') on the Economy and Housing, which takes the specific needs of young members forward on those issues.

Key debates

As I see it here are some of the key issues for debate:

  • The Economy - How should UNISON respond and what does it mean for us and our members?
  • Tackling the far right - particularly in the light of the recent Euro elections, there is also a rule change to ensure we have the provisions to lawfully exclude and expel members of far right political parties from UNISON
  • UNISON's Structures - with important changes to make sure our union is relevant to all our members, especially in relation to bargaining.
So there's my two penny's worth, back to the speech writing (both on the NHS) and hope to see you in Brighton!

Back from Brussels

Well I'm back in the UK having been at EPSU (European Public Services Unions) Congress in Brussels.

It was hard not to have an eye on what was happening in the UK - what with Gordon Brown fighting off attacks from the right in the Labour Party, our own NEC election results, and of course the Euro election results and the shame of electing fascists in Yorkshire and the North West.

But it was an interesting conference to hear the experiences of other union in Europe. I spoke in the health debate for UNISON, outlining the good things about our NHS, how it has been attacked and the threats to our NHS from EU free-marketeers. The currently proposed cross boarder health directive would seriously damage the NHS's core principles. What was interesting was that in moving the debate our own Karen Jennings (Chair of EPSU's Health & Social Care Committee) was joined by a representative of the European Hospital and Healthcare Employers Association (HOSPEEM) who expressed the employers support for the unions position and their opposition to the marketisation on healthcare.

Just a few days at home now before off to Brighton for National Delegate Conference!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Another 2 years on the NEC

I've had the results of the NEC elections today, and I'm glad to say I've been elected to represent the West Midlands for the next two years. It was a close one, just 19 votes in out of nearly 7000 cast.

And it's going to be an important and difficult time with the continued impact of the recession and tighter public spending, and the very real threat of a Tory Government which would be disastrous for our services and our members.

So the hard work continues. I'd like to thank all those who supported my election and particularly Graeme Horne who stands down in this seat. He's been a great NEC member to work with and I hope I can keep up his good work here in the West Midlands.

It's been a mixed bag of results but overall sensible seem to have made gains, particularly in the Health Seats where the 'trots' have been wiped out. Though some really brilliant NEC members won't be joining us next year and I'm really gutted to have lost some amazing colleagues.

Congratulations must go to Lisa Waldock who's been elected with a much clearer margin for the Young Members Seat.

Fighting the BNP with every vote cast tomorrow

Since I became active politically, anti-BNP work has been a continuous part. From getting most of the windows in the big student area at Birmingham Uni displaying posters saying that fascist are not welcome – to this year spending hours at the computer calling members about the BNP.

UNISON has again produced our own materials aimed primarily at our members and their families, with a focus on the BNP and their affect on public services as well as their general nastiness. These have gone around the two hospitals I work in and seem to have gone down well. And as with last year we are the major supporter of the Hope not Hate campaign with Searchlight and the Daily Mirror. This activity gets out beyond our own membership and into the community and is really excellent campaign with brilliant materials and an excellent and intelligence lead anti-BNP strategy.

The fight this year was always going to be a tough one, which UNISON has been planning for a long time, but the events in politics over the last weeks and months have made our fight all the more difficult.

I’ve spent some time this week on the phone to UNISON members in the West Midlands. My region is a high target for the BNP and they came closest here in the last Euro’s. I’ve been asking members whether they’re likely to vote tomorrow and I’ve often heard that people aren’t planning to vote this year because they feel they’re all as bad as each other. Now hopefully these members have been talked round and will get to the ballot box tomorrow (I gave up on the one women that was about to leave the country to go on holiday, bit late to arrange a postal vote). But there will be many others feeling just like that.

I have been motivated this year by the real fear that I will wake up to a BNP MEP (not literally wake up to one you understand), representing me in Europe with their vial racist, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, disablist hate.

But that won’t happen if anti-racists turn out in numbers at the ballot box and defeat the fascists.

If you’re not going to vote BNP then you need to vote for someone. Obviously that you’ve voted is great, but who? I make no secret about my Labour Party membership, but I genuinely believe that a vote for Labour in Europe is a vote for people who genuinely represent the interests of our members. From equalities legislation to protection for agency workers, from help to reduced maternal mortality to fighting for the right of LGBT people to celebrate their identity in Pride events, Labour MEPs have shown they are on our side.

Don’t let racists speak for you – Vote in the Euro (and county elections if you live in one) and reject the racist BNP