This years conference was held at the Telford International Centre.
This was my first experience of a Unison Conference of any kind, so I was grateful the comradeship of those who showed me the ropes. I soon got used following proceedings and waving the big ‘blue hand’ card, as appropriate, to vote.
Unsurprisingly the main issues and motions were related to the ‘cost of living crisis’ and pensions. There were also a few motions seeking to address procedural issues, which struck me as important too. One in particular, sought to increase retired member’s representation nationally. I voted for this as one of the motions for national conference, as it addressed the foundations of democratic involvement and is therefore fundamental to everything else.
The first day was preparation for the main conference the following day, and included panel discussions, focus groups and a chance to look around the stalls. I found the regional focus group helpful in explaining some of the practicalities such as where to sit in the main hall and some other business was explained as well as voting for delegates. It was mostly procedural guidance and I learned afterwards that one member was disappointed by that. As a new attendee I appreciated it as it was also an opportunity to get to know some of the regional members.
I attended a talk and panel discussion about pensions, and was selected to asked my question, about the panel’s view on the importance of working across the generations to protect pensions. Their response reinforced my own belief and assertion that pensions are everyone’s concern and there is much vital work to be done across the generations as todays fight for pensions will impact the future of pensions for everyone. Afterwards a woman who had been sitting behind me introduced me to her friend as ‘having asked a good question,’ and two more conference friends were made.
Other panel discussions focused on aspects of the ‘cost of living crisis’ raising the issues such as those who fall through the net. Many of these issues were the subject of motions to protect and support the most vulnerable. Needless to say the majority of these passed.
There was one motions of note which fell, it was on pensions and generated some discussion about the private sector, it arguably weakened demands and this was it’ downfall. Another motion regarding the impact of the cost of living for trans people was rejected by panel and referred back several times, but was continuously rejected on grounds that it did not meet the conference criteria for a motion. There is no option to change motions at this stage so changing the way it was written was not possible.
We also voted for regional delegates and delegates to National Conference, as well as 2 motions for national conference.
There were apologies from the chair that there was no guest speaker this year, due to various reasons no one was available. With hindsight I found this disappointing and hope that the importance of the work that retired members do is promoted and realised.
Overall I found it a very positive experience and representative of the significant and hard work that retired members are doing.
There were few campaigning stalls. I picked up literature from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Disabled members and LGBGT stalls which I will leave at the Unison office. If anyone would like more detailed information please get in touch with me via the Unison Office.
Retired Members secretary