Update from UNISON North West Regional Council Meeting

Assistant Branch Secretary, Iain Mooney, represented our branch at Regional Council in Manchester on 7 May 2024.

North West Regional Council Meetings are held in Manchester and meet at least 3 times a year with Representatives appointed by Branches across the North West Region.

Your Regional Council Branch Representatives are Elizabeth Walsh, Branch Secretary and Iain Mooney, Assistant Branch Secretary.

The meeting was attended by UNISON President Libby Nolan who presented UNISON member, care worker, Fiona Mercer, with recognition for her huge Supreme Court win, which will protect workers in future.

Fiona had originally taken a case against her then employer, Alternative Futures Group (AFG), a charity based in the North West, to an employment tribunal in 2020.

She had been involved in a dispute over AFG’s plans to cut payments to care staff who did sleep-in shifts. Fiona’s employer wasn’t happy, singled her out, suspended her and barred her from going into work or contacting colleagues during the action.

Fiona’s case wound up at an employment appeal tribunal (EAT) in 2021, which found in her favour. It said UK law must protect her from being victimised for going on strike.

But the then business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng intervened and took the case to the Court of Appeal, which subsequently decided to reverse the EAT decision in March 2022. Unison then sought permission on behalf of Fiona to take the case to the highest court in the land, and this led to her and UNISON’s victory, meaning that employers will no longer be able to discipline their staff for taking part in legal strike action.

Following this, we discussed and agreed the UNISON North West regional strategy and work programme for 2024/2025. This consists of 4 main objectives that we as branches and as a region will be looking to work towards over the next year.

First objective is meeting the organising challenge. This includes recruiting, organising, representing, and retaining members. As a region we have achieved a small but encouraging net growth of members, but our focus is on nurturing members and being visible in the workplace.

Second objective is bargaining and job security. A 1-day course has been developed for unison reps to train on long-covid. This is a big issue now with our members and will only become bigger moving forward. Our Pay Fair For Patient care campaign was also spoken about as Morecambe Bay Hospitals Trust looks to finalise our negotiated and member accepted deal.

Objective three is on campaigning for public services. 14 years of a Conservative government has slashed and cut our public services to a minimum, often leading to many being outsourced and sold off. UNISON knows that us and our members are at the front of the fight to preserve our services and our workers rights.

Objective four surrounds internal UNISON systems, efficiency and effectiveness. This is an ongoing piece of work that will train branches to be fully ‘ballot ready’. We all know that more disputes are around the corner, especially on pay, so it is our branches priority to make sure we are working efficiently towards this and that members are informed and ready for when that time comes.

Lastly, we heard a moving report from this year’s delegation to Auschwitz from Paddy Toner. Paddy is visually impaired and spoke to us about his experience of the visit using his other senses. It was truly remarkable how someone without eyesight could paint such a true picture of Auschwitz through just touch and hearing.