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Your Fab Four representatives at Unison Local Government Conference in Liverpool this year. In addition to your two delegates Paul Marten and Lynda Wilkes; Kate Lattimore attended as Regional Delegate and Kevin Treweeks spoke from the platform as a member of the National Service Group Executive


Not the most controversial conference you ever went to, every single motion was passed, and there was probably only one that needs thinking about more deeply that related to income generation. You can see the full text of all of them above; but if you don’t want to go through everything here are our highlights.

The Future of our Pensions

I was slated to speak on pensions in a motion related to the government’s ban on BDS for ethical reasons where Foreign Office Policy disagrees. Palestine Solidarity Campaign are challenging this in court but it could just as easily apply to Saudi Arabia or other countries with problematic human rights records and the arms trade in general. We should have a right to be consulted at least as to how our money is invested. Governance of our pensions is an issue for a number of reasons. Obviously UNISON has been trying to get members on the boards of all the pension schemes or their regional groupings with some success but there remains o lot of opacity. Another motion covered the issue of divestment from Carbon but this is less a moral issue as one of financial interest. Obviously we support the transition to a low carbon economy for environmental reasons but there is a real risk that our funds could be left with a large volume of worthless shares when the oil and gas firms realise that most of the value of their companies is tied up in assets they can never extract.

There are also two worrying attacks on the local government pension scheme to be aware of. The proposal that came just before conference to release colleges from the obligation to offer the LGPS will create a two tier workforce and undermine the viability of the scheme long term. The £95000 exit cap is also a problem and both the LGA and UNISON have responded to the government consultation to explain why. That said don’t have nightmares about a retirement in poverty. The overall health of the schemes are sound and one of the actions for branches to look at this year is to promote the LGPS to low paid and part time workers who opt out. Its still the best scheme you are likely to get


Social Care is in crisis

Text Pending


Pay is the answer to how we fight the cuts

One thing that stood out during the conference, was a clear desire that the Union becomes more active in opposing Government funding cuts to public services.

Speaker after speaker reiterated the damage this was doing to the services themselves, and the consequent misery this was causing for both overstretched members working in those services and the people in our communities that rely on them.

Some particular speeches of note on the subject were given by Glen Williams, Chair of the Local Government Service Group Executive (SGE) and by Guest Speaker and ex Everton and Welsh International Goalie Neville Southall. Both fired up conference with passionate and emotional appeals for something to do done about the wanton and deliberate destruction of the public realm by the Tory Government.

Neville Southall mid flow….

Two separate motions were submitted to the Conference (by the Local Government SGE and Surrey County Branch) basically requesting that the Union looks at ways we can take industrial action against the cuts. Both these motions were however ruled out of order on the grounds of potentially leaving the Union open to legal challenge twice by the Standing Orders Committee, despite delegates voting overwhelmingly in an appeal against their first decision.

Composite Motion C setting out a range of other options (short of industrial action) to campaign against the cuts submitted by South Lanarkshire, Scotland Region, Welsh Joint Education Committee and the Northern Region was passed easily however.

One area we CAN take industrial action is over pay and if we can’t directly oppose cuts in themselves due to the harsh anti-Union laws we have at present, then we do have this as a route to take to challenge what’s going on. One motion that was of particular interest in this area was Composite Motion A submitted by the Scottish Joint Council Committee and South Lanarkshire which noted the success of Unison’s ‘Pay up Now’ campaign and the success of Scottish branches in building support amongst members for action and in highlighting the campaign to media and politicians and the public at large.

The motion proposed that we:

  • Assess Strike readiness at the Branch level and organise accordingly.
  • Review past pay campaigns and learn for best practice in terms of engaging members and communication techniques to build support for strike action if necessary.
  • Develop bargaining strategies that also look to enhance members other Terms and Conditions.
  • Use the above to create a hard hitting pay campaigns to drive significant improvements to pay and T&Cs over the coming years.

This was passed virtually unanimously by conference.

All of this shows that the mood against the Government is hardening amongst delegates and the Service Group, and that there is broad recognition that we all need to be more proactive and be prepared to take action collectively in campaigning for better pay and conditions and pushing back against the destruction of the institutions we work in and that so many rely on by callous and greedy Tory politicians.


Violence at Work is not part of the job

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines work-related violence as: “any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work”.  Acts of violence or aggression can range from minor cases such as disrespect, to more serious acts including criminal offences, which may require the involvement of the police.
One major reason for increased reporting of incidents – verbal and physical to employees and our members in Libraries and local government buildings, was the introduction of Universal Credit – the governments “one size fits all” approach to lumping all separate benefits like Personal Independence Payments, Job Seekers Allowance, Carers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, etc. into one pot This benefit is paid into a bank account (some vulnerable people in society are unable to open a bank account and the homeless need an address to get a bank account) on a monthly basis.  Previously benefit claimants were used to getting benefits on a weekly and fortnightly basis. Some claimants are unable to budget for such a long period and run into difficulties and long term debt.  They rely on Libraries and other agencies to help them deal with their debts and spend time completing forms on line.
The time line for receiving Universal Credit varies from six weeks to twelve weeks – during this time claimants are unable to pay bills and buy food – more and more families rely on food banks and find debts spiralling out of control.
As well as closing some Libraries in rural areas and on the high streets in most large cities, debt agencies and help lines are increasingly being put under tremendous strain – not just with constantly growing workloads and unachievable work targets, but by workplace stress when dealing with aggressive and violent people. The Job Centres are mostly “non-customer facing” and waiting times to speak to an advisor are very long and costly. We refer claimants to a number of organisations, Age UK, Salvation Army, Christians Against Poverty, Shelter, Housing Associations, Highbury Trust, DIAC, Adult Social Services, G.P’s, Gateway to Mental Health, SAFFA, The Royal British Legion, to mention a few.
All organisations are reporting high levels of abuse towards their staff and growing workloads. This not only affects morale, but can contribute to personal stress and mental health issues – sometimes our members are unable to return to work after a particularly violent episode.
Our members are all seeing larger amounts of vulnerable people: the elderly, people with disabilities, mental health issues, people under the influence of medication/drugs and alcohol, trying to access help and support to deal with whatever life is throwing at them – they all want, need and demand, help and support and time for an explanation and find a way forward.  Frustrations, anger and violence are being used as a way to communicate their feelings. Time and understanding are very expensive commodities for staff and can lead to our most vulnerable people in our communities waiting too long for information or simply not getting the help they desperately need.
Unison does have a “Violence at Work Charter” and is calling on all employers to sign up to this, you can help by discussing this with your workplace stewards or Health and Safety Reps – we need ALL employers to be aware and act responsibly to the growing issue of “Violence at Work”. Do not become complacent and think “it’s all in a day’s work” – IT ISN’T – keep completing incident forms – they are proof to your employer that there is a problem! This problem needs to be addressed.