Jean-Ann Thompson attended the 2018 UNISON Black Members Conference on behalf of the Community and Voluntary Organisations Branch. Please find her report below:
Friday 19th January
Conference was opened at 4pm by National Black Members’ Committee (NBMC) Chair, Ash Dhobi.
Guest Speaker Councillor Malcolm Kennedy, Mayor of Liverpool said it was his first time attending a Unison conference – despite having been an active union student 40 years ago and a member of National Union Teachers, for a time. Liverpool’s economy and diversity has changed, for example, the City hosts conferences. He noted that Liverpool had suffered a 50% cut in national funding from the present Government. At end of his speech the Mayor acknowledged the low level of ‘ethnic participation’ in the Labour Party in Liverpool, but relayed his hope that this will have improved when Unison has its next conference in Liverpool.
Chair NBMC, then paid a mark of respect to those Black community activists and well known individuals whom made an impact on the Black community and throughout the world.
Bev Miller, NBMC moved section 1 of Annual Report Organising/Recruitment. There was uch focus on Young Black members participation in Unison.
Guest Speaker, Dave Prentis, General Secretary of Unison was the last speaker for Friday afternoon. He acknowledged 50th anniversary of Race Relations Act and followed up in saying that Brexit must be built on Equality and Fairness! 650 Black members in conference in Liverpool made it the biggest in Europe. He noted that Liverpool has one of the longest established Black communities as it was strategic during the African Slave Trade.
The collapse of Carrillon has seen 1,000 Unison members affected. 2018 has been year of milestones and achievements of Black people e.g. Nelson Mandela Award; Eleanor Smith Labour MP elected to seat once held by Enoch Powell; 150 years of Trade Union Congress and Unison’s 25th birthday. So far, 160,000 members recruited up to last year.
Saturday 20th Jan
Margaret McKee, Unison President, gave her Presidential Address to Conference.
She stated that we face many challenges as a union from the Westminster Govt. and thanked the BMC, for its continued work against racism. A Unison Survey showed 50% black workers have experienced a decrease in their standard of living since last year. She noted that the north of the UK is facing the greatest impact in terms of social/economic cuts, and that Unison still needs to organise in campaigning and fighting for legal equality for black workers. The President’s chosen Charity for her year in Office is Rosemount House who provide services for people with alcohol/drug addiction.
The Nelson Mandel Award, went to Yvonne Mosqito, Birmingham Councillor.
Lunch time Fringe Meeting – Challenging the Hostile Environment – What next?
Data Protection and attacks by present Govt. Without proper ID and other papers showing proof of individual status in UK, it is harder to access services and secure employment. Impact not just on immigrants but also on those who are residents of UK.
Guest Speaker, Eleanor Smith, Birmingham MP, addressed Conference. She noted that the conference atmosphere energised her. She reported her passion for homeless and young people and gave an overview of her journey from joining Unison in 1987 up to now. She came to politics via Unison who supported and helped her tho achieve her political aspirations. She is a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s Manifesto and believes he understands what affects the people and the issues we are facing.
Sunday 21st Jan
Conference resumed early morning as last day. Motion 9 speakers for the motion continued, however, seconds before I was due to go and speak at the Rostrum a member of conference asked that the ‘Question be put’ (meaning the debate on the motion will end and conference will go to the vote).
Chair and Standing Orders Committee
Sharon Foster re-elected as Chair and Fodday from Housing Association Branch also re-elected.
Conference ended 12.30pm with reference back to NBMC with 5 motions outstanding.