UNISON Health Conference, April 2013

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There was a much different feel to Health Conference this year than there has been in recent years.  We are now in our 6th year of the financial crisis caused by the system of Capitalism and the culture of casino banking resulting in the huge bailouts, financial deficit and the determination of our governments that working class people and vital public services would be attacked in order to repay these debts.

Recent UNISON Health conferences had seen little debate with unopposed motions being agreed and the conference timetable being raced through.

This was certainly not the case this year with many contested motions leading to a busy conference for branch delegates who intervened in around a dozen debates.

Delegates were:
Ben Jackson & Caroline Ridgway, Co-Branch Secretaries
Leah Gilman, Equalities Officer

There was much discussion about the best ways of moving forward and the direction the is needed for the biggest Public Service Union in 2013 fighting the worst attacks the NHS has ever seen, in fact any health Service has ever seen worldwide.

Themes and Discussions

  • Organising & Recruitment
  • Negotiating & Bargaining
  • Campaigning & Promoting Unison

Recruiting as always, is a high priority for UNISON and you should expect to see a presence of branch members in June during a “recruitment fortnight”.

It can be difficult to maintain high union density when financial pressures, redundancies and austerity are affecting the levels of public sector employment with jobs being lost.  However, there is also a recognition that this is a time when Union’s need to remain strong to defend the public sector and of course it’s members.

Our branch believes:

  • That a visible, campaigning union, fighting the attacks on our NHS and it’s members is the best way to maintain density and to recruit.
  • We noted that the highest recruitment levels were achieved when the Union is fighting, and that the lead up to the Pension Strike in Nov 2011saw by far the largest increase in Unison membership for many years.
  • We supported a motion that we should no further support the NHS Body which has agreed this years 1% NHS “uplift” which in
  • Worryingly the “PRB” are also recommending  “a 1% rise for 2014 and 2015”.  Which are bound to cause a further deficit to our salary

Negotiating & Bargaining

These sessions were no doubt the most hotly contended and debated of this year’s health conference with pay and Terms & Conditions without doubt being amongst our members highest concerns as they continue to suffer at the hands of an uncaring Government determined that Healthworkers should pay for this crisis of capitalism.

The recent ‘compromise’ deal on Agenda for Change, which our branch consulted on in January, resulting in us submitting for rejection after holding stalls on several hospital sites, caused fierce argument with high levels of anger.  We called for “censure” of the Health Service Group, due to what we believe was a flawed and unfair consultation process with questions that were heavily weighed to encourage members to accept these cuts to their terms and conditions giving no encouragement to taking action to defend their sick pay, yearly increments and

Pay and our recent 1% uplift, which in reality is a 2% cut also caused an argument with some stating that this is a positive in the current financial crisis and that members are more concerned about keeping their jobs with constant reorganisations and threat of redundancies.

Our Branch Position

Our members cannot continue to keep taking hits to their pay which is causing financial hardship to hard working, efficient and experienced Health Sector Workers.  A real terms pay decrease of 15-20% is the reality since the burst of the financial “bubble”.

Upto 40% of people working in the public sector rely on benefit top-ups including tax credits and housing benefit. This is degrading.  Working people should be able to rely on a fair salary which is at least a ‘living wage’ without having apply from “benefit top ups”.

We should negotiate pay increases across the 4 devolved nations rather than submit to the NHS Pay Review Body, which increasingly seems to deliver according to Government wishes.

A Fighting Union is a Recruiting Union