There were two delegates from Community and Voluntary Organisations Branch attending the National Women’s Conference this year in Bournemouth
Keynote speakers were Dave Prentis (Unison General secretary), Gordon McCay (Unison President) and Labour MP Rosena Allin-Khan. The irony that in a union of majority women members both the top jobs of that union are taken by men was not lost on me and I hope one day Unison will have more visible female leadership going to the very top of our union. Having said that their feminist credentials were abundantly clear and their speeches were inspiring to hear. Labour MP Rosena Allin-Khan made a very personal and memorable speech about her journey from comprehensive pupil to MP via being an A&E Doctor. You can read more of her inspiring story here https://magazine.unison.org.uk/2018/08/06/wonder-woman-meet-the-multi-talented-ae-mp/
It was my first time to attend a Unison Conference. I felt very well-looked after as a newbie and felt much gratitude at being given this opportunity to get more involved with the work of our union which I passionately support from a grass-roots level of being a work place rep. It was a packed agenda with around 40 motions to be discussed and voted on which seemed a lot to get through.
But the debates were very rich and well outlined so every motion was brought to life with passion from fellow delegates. Motions on period poverty, WASPI women, transphobia, universal childcare, black women in senior positions in the workplace and domestic violence were all discussed and passed. All motions that were passed will go on to the National Delegates Conference.
In addition to the main conference activities I also attended fringe events such as a workshop on pay evaluation which will support my work as a workplace rep and also an event on women in leadership which sought to address why there are (currently) no women at the very top of our union. But for me the stand out fringe event was on the gender pay gap with Stella Creasy who is a passionate and inspiring speaker on this issue. The workshop left me with many ideas on how to challenge assumptions and support ongoing campaigns around the gender pay gap which as always Unison is leading the way on, which given that men still earn on average 18% more than women is much needed. https://www.unison.org.uk/our-campaigns/bridgethegap/
The conference was a time to meet other delegates and celebrate our achievements as a union as well as pass motions for the future. The union has 1 million women members and this is still growing. 18,000 new members joined during the Growvember event last year – which equaled the biggest recruitment within in Unison during any month for 25 years. As a workplace rep who held a Growvember event I felt proud to be part of this.
To sum up: attending Unison’s National Women’s Conference this year in Bournemouth was truly inspiring and a great way to be initiated into the inner workings and democracy of our union. It’s not often that we as activists get to spend quality time with like-minded activists who do the same supportive but often stressful work for our members, let alone spend time in a hall with several hundred amazing, inspiring left-wing women.