Last week, UNISON held its National Delegate Conference in Glasgow. It was a very successful week for our region. There were over 30 speakers from the North West Region who addressed the 3,000-strong hall. A third of our speakers were speaking for the first time and I was delighted to hear our new activists saying how their experience gave them renewed confidence. Conference is great for instilling self-belief but also for increasing our confidence in the collective strength of our union as we return to our branches.
I was proud that the North West played a key part in the international debates at conference. Mags Hindle from Stockport branch did a great job in moving the motion on TTIP and our campaign work on this vital issue goes on as we will be welcoming with John Hillary from War on Want to Arena Point on Tuesday 14 July.
I was very pleased to move our region’s motion on Palestine and it is great that the union voted to support the important work being done by the Knowledge and Socialist Thought Institute in Ramallah.
Our regional motion on devolution was passed. We have worked hard in the North West to grapple with the challenges presented by devolution, and the position agreed at our Regional Council has now become the union’s national position. This gives us a sound platform for our engagement in devolution initiatives, and branches in Greater Manchester and Merseyside will be meeting together over the coming weeks. Pat McDonagh also contributed to a fringe meeting hosted by UNISON Scotland, describing the experience of Devo Manc in the context of devolution to the nations of the UK.
The region’s fringe meeting on ‘Access to Justice’ was very well-attended, and speakers highlighted the problems caused by Employment Tribunal fees and the inadequacy of compensation to employees who are injured at work. The inadequacy of legal protections for workers underline the importance of effective trade union organisation in workplaces.
We can look ahead to a busy time in the North West in the coming months. On Sunday 4 October, as the Tories gather for their national conference, Manchester will host an anti-austerity march and rally.
I enjoyed my first conference as Regional Convenor and am ready to take on the challenges ahead with a renewed sense of what a strong union UNISON is. We must work to ensure that the Tories leave their conference with a similar sense of UNISON’s collective strength.