There was also a huge focus on the equalities agenda as it is women, especially low paid women, black, disabled, LGBT and young members who have been the hardest hit by this Tory/Lib Dem Government’s austerity policies.
Conference backed action, including co-ordinated strike action to win decent wages for our members.
Delegates heard that the share of our economy that goes on wages is in decline, a long term trend that is now accelerating, demonstrated by the latest Sunday Times Rich List, which “shows the fat cats putting on weight.”
Scottish NEC members Jane Carolan told delegates, “With inflation increasing and our wages at a standstill, our living standards are falling away further.
“Britain needs a pay rise, and our members need a pay rise, not only for themselves but for the economy as a whole. We must now unite and fight and fight for what we deserve.”
Jane condemned the scourge of low pay in our society, the attacks on conditions and the deskilling of the workforce to keep the pay bill down. And she warned that all this doesn’t only affect us as workers.
“Wage decline affects our economy as a whole, with people having no money to spend, a fall in consumer demand which means the economy can’t grow.”
The kind of future we want
From a Scotland perspective, the big debate for us was on “Scotland’s Future”, which laid out the UNISON Scotland position on the Independence Referendum – to take no position but to challenge both sides on how they will deliver the “kind of Scotland our members want and deserve.” This was overwhelmingly supported by our colleagues from other parts of the UK.
Call for Justice for Colombia
On the international theme, Conference gave overwhelming support to our trade union colleagues in Colombia, one of the most dangerous places to be a trade unionist.
Delegates took part in a photo shoot, calling for the release of Huber Ballesteros and his colleagues, imprisoned for their trade union activities.
In a moving debate, speakers, including Ruth Young, a member from Falkirk, told of how Martha Diaz, an international guest, faced death threats and the kidnapping of the her daughter, because of her trade union activities.
“I’m not sure I would be that brave,” said Ruth, calling on delegates to “Embrace Martha’s spirit and her fight.”
The branch motions did not make the conference agenda this year, and none of our delegates were up speaking at this Conference. However, the three new delegates, Kathleen Kennedy, Ann Gray and James Mulholland, very much enjoyed the conference experience and there will be reports from them in due course.
For all the Scotland debates, go to the UNISON Scotland website.