UNISON had a strong delegation, with a big impact at the North West Regional Labour Party Conference in Blackpool on Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd November 2013. The Conference was far larger than last year, with the General Election to ditch the Con-Dems and their Austerity just 18 months away. Throughout, the Trade Union Labour Link was praised and celebrated as vital for our Party’s success.
MOTION ON PAY CARRIED.
Our motion on pay “In Work Poverty – Better Pay, We’re Worth It” was carried unanimously after a powerful speech by Glen Williams. This built on the UNISON supported Composite passed at National Labour Conference, but with focus on what can be done locally to drive this forward.
FUTURE DIRECTIONS WORKERS BACKED.
Our Emergency motion “Future Directions Dispute – Helping Vulnerable Workers Care for our Most Vulnerable People” was also carried unanimously. June Poole, coming from Rochdale , hit home on the subject, with Carl Webb, Regional Secretary of the CWU seconding, including a moving tribute to UNISON members who looked after his parents. In summarising the Debate, strongly supporting the Motion, Ivan Lewis, Shadow Secretary for Northern Ireland, agreed to meet the strikers to assist in any way. A petition in support of the workers was the main focus of the well stocked UNISON stall. The motion included a recommendation that Labour Groups adopt UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter.
ELECT THERESA GRIFFIN – SACK NICK GRIFFIN
Theresa Griffin chaired the crucial European debate and the session on the European elections. Andy Burnham emphasised the crucial importance of this work by describing the night Nick Griffin was elected as the most depressing in his life, as our vote collapsed and Griffin scraped through. This emphasises the need to support Labour’s pro-workers rights agenda in the European Elections on 22nd May as well as engaging with our partners Hope not Hate in getting a message to all members to vote to Sack Nick Griffin.
Delegates also questioned party spokes people on key issues, Angela Rayner raising searching questions on Local Government policy and the cuts.
SPEAKING UP FOR THE LABOUR LINK – THE TULO FRINGE
Particularly important was the TULO fringe meeting, absolutely packed to the door, to hear Lynne Morris speak for UNISON, Keiran Quinn, Tameside Council Leader and CWU alongside Lord Ray Collins who is responsible for preparing the Report on the possible changes to the Labour Link. Lynne, in a storming speech, hit on the pulse of the meeting as she received repeated applause. She explained that the Labour Link gives our party its name, its history and purpose, and keeps us grounded on key policies to win the next election. Condemning infighting over Falkirk instead of leading on living standards, she added that constitutional change is a distraction, that we do not need to mend the link, it isn’t broken, but we do need to strengthen it. She explained UNISON funding arrangements, the need to preserve our affiliated fund, and practical difficulties about converting APF payers to Labour Party members. The Special Conference should prioritise these practical changes before any other change. She also stressed the need for unions to be seen by CLPs as full partners, not just a cash cow and the need for working class candidates, not ‘missionaries’ or ‘saviours’ from the Westminster bubble.
GETTING HEARD IN OUR PARTY.
Angela Rayner spoke on a similar theme at the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy fringe. A sobering fact emerged that 62% of Labour Party members left the party under the last government, underlining the disillusionment of that period, but also the need to turn this to an organised fight for our party to remain relevant in Government next time.
A key note speech was given by Andy Burnham, Shadow Secretary of State for Health. Proud of the achievements of the last Labour Government, he admitted they had been uncomfortably too close to business and the media. He gave the full quote from the Clinton years about progressive parties winning elections ; “it’s the economy stupid, but don’t forget healthcare”. He promised to repeal the Health and Social Care Bill and said that it matters greatly to public service workers that they work for a public, not a profit based organisation. In proposing a single integrated public service for Health and Social Care, he praised trade union partners and added:
“Conference, I have never been clearer about anything in my life than this: we will never, ever get the care we aspire to for our own parents, or indeed anyone’s parents, from a malnourished, minimum-wage social care system dishing out care in 15 minute slots where there’s barely time to make a cup of tea let alone exchange a meaningful word, where over 300,000 care workers in England are on zero-hours contracts. Britain, surely, is better than this.
How can anyone who doesn’t have the security of knowing what they will earn one week to the next, pass on a sense of security to those they care for? Looking after someone else’s mum or dad is the highest calling a person can answer. But society says it’s the lowest. Wrong, wrong, wrong on every level.”
Adrian Heald, UNISON member and candidate for the key marginal Crewe & Nantwich, lead the Policy Forum session on health. UNISON and health workers had a strong input.
All in all a successful weekend in a windswept Blackpool.