Conference News

Local Government Conference celebrates wins but calls on members to step up action on the fights ahead

Kathleen Kennedy and Morag Lawrence
Kathleen Kennedy and Morag Lawrence

#lgc19 Branch pensions’ officer Morag Lawrence and branch equalities officer Kathleen Kennedy represented our branch at Local Government Conference this year.

Neither had an opportunity to speak, though Kathleen was in the queue to speak on a number of motions, including climate change, a key issue for our branch. However each time, the debate was brought to a close before she was able to get to the podium.

Branch secretary, Inez Kirk was on the platform as a member of the Service Group Executive, and spoke on their behalf.

Inez Kirk on platform
Inez Kirk on platform

Chaired by UNISON President and member of Ayrshire and Arran Health Branch, Gordon McKay, the conference was a sombre affair on the whole, reflecting on the massive cuts to council services and the voluntary and private sector and the impact this has had on our low paid members and the equalities agenda.

However there was good news in there too. The 1% pay cap has been smashed; many members (most of them low paid and often women) have been spurred to action in support of equal pay; to defend terms and conditions and to prevent the privatisation of their services. There have been many wins showing that when members come together to fight collectively we will succeed.

There was praise for Glasgow’s equal pay strike, which will see thousands of women gain back-dated equal pay including life changing sums for some; the Birmingham home care members strike, which saw the council withdraw their plans for service changes; and many more, proving that we can beat the Tory anti-union legislation.

This has been further emphasised in Dundee, where successful strike ballots of members with overwhelming votes for strike action, resulted in the council withdrawing their proposals rather than face strike action. Examples we can all learn from, which show the power of the collective.

Local Government Conference

The conference also held a focus on wider issues such as climate change, which is a key issue of concern for members and wider citizens and has at last been pushed up the agenda by the school student strikes, by Greta Thunberg and by Extinction Rebellion.

Kathleen said, “The conference covered a lot of important issues relevant to our branch including climate change, which is something we highlighted at our AGM, with strong feelings that this is the time to act.

“It was an enjoyable conference and set some great policies. It was just unfortunate that we didn’t get the chance to speak to express branch policy.”