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Whatever we get time to write, we'll write it here. Probably.

Happy May Day!

Walter Crane's iconic celebration of May Day

So it's May Day, a celebration of both the rebirth of life in the spring every year, which seemed like a miracle and something worth celebrating in years gone by, but now almost passes us by unnoticed if we don't pay some attention to the natural world around us, and also the international workers' movement.

It is worth reflecting on the historic struggles and events that led to May 1st being commemorated as a workers' holiday. But the historic, or almost pre-historic, roots of May Day as a celebration of spring are also important. As a far better writer than I has already made suitable encouragement for us to celebrate the rise of spring, and Walter Crane's illustration makes the point without needing (many) words, it just falls for me to wish all readers of (and workers everwhere) a very happy May Day.

Back to reality and considering ironies


Up this morning to the usual routine of school and work. And a broken central heating boiler and no food in the fridge. Real life is great, innit?

Today's agenda, apart from work and trying to arrange a branch committee to discuss the pay offer also includes several meetings with members about sick reviews and disciplinaries. Talking to colleagues at conference it was clear that many NHS employers are adopting an increasingly tough approach to such issues, piling even more pressure on overworked and stressed workers.

I've received an email highlighting the inconsistency of the health conference voting to criticise last year's SGE decision not to make a recommendation on the pay offer and then endorsing the SGE motion this year resulting in a ballot being held with no recommendation.

Homeward bound


So health conference is over for another year and we're on our way home to begin preparation for the members' ballot on pay. The afternoon debates today, on nursing students' poverty, mental health, partnership and a host of other issues, moved pretty quickly and the conference completed all the business a little early.

At lunchtime the SGE met briefly to discuss the mechanics of the pay ballot and we agreed that the chair of the SGE would have approval over the materials which were to be sent out with the ballot paper but that all members of the SGE would be sent drafts to review. Clearly there is a balance to be struck between ensuring democratic oversight of the ballot process by the elected leadership and getting the ballot started quickly, which we all clearly want.

Not just pay


With all the focus on the pay debate yesterday it would be easy to forget that other important issues are also on the agenda here.

Yesterday we agreed motions pledging to raise the profile of the Knowledge and Skills Framework and extend the benefits of training and support to those members working for private contractors. We also agreed to fight against both unsafe staffing levels and down grading like that currently hanging over the heads of our members in Derby hospitals.

Two motions were passed on the conduct of last year's pay ballot. Although the SGE asked them not to, delegates agreed to motions from Yorkshire Ambulance Branch and the Eastern Region which declared that "in general branches should always have the right to inform members of their own policy on all issues" and that "the health national officers should not have intervened [by telling branches they could not make local recommendations] as it changed the interpretation of the democracy guidelines applied to branches in the health sector".

Card vote result

For the SGE position: 214,059
Against the SGE: 201,101

Majority in favour: 12,958

Therefore the other emergency motions fall.

Analysis later.

Card vote


After something of a false start, the debate on NHS pay at Unison health conference has ended with a card vote. So we still don't know what our policy is!

The first four speakers taken from the floor were either in favour of the SGE motions or against the motions from Manchester and Scotland. Delegates challenged the balance of the debate, and the vice-president, quite rightly, suspended the debate while the order of speakers was changed to give a balance between the three positions.

When the debate re-started, 18 (I think) further speakers contributed. On the whole it was a positive debate. Everyone agreed that the membership of our union should be able to decide what to do in response to the pay offer, and no-one seemed to think the offer was good enough. The disagreements were ones of tactics. But tactics are important.

Tuesday morning update


Problems connecting to this site couldn't have come at a worse time than last night, so of course that's when it happened. I wasn't able to post anything from last night's excellent fringe meeting in support of the campaign to win Karen Reissmann's reinstatement.

And I wasn't able to provide an update on the latest situation with the pay debate. Apparently the Standing orders Committee met yesterday afternoon and ruled out of order the motion from the SGE which sought to facilitate the conference making a recommendation in a consultative ballot. Whether there were problems with the wording of the motion or not, the motion clearly sought to acheive the will of both the SGE and the conference. Refusing to allow it on the agenda leaves the SGE putting a motion which does not represent our position at all - since it would result in the ballot going out with no recommendation.

Nurses reject pay deal! (Well, some of them do)

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While UNISON health delegates ponder their decision on the three year pay offer from health workers, the new issue of the Nursing Times is published today with details of their online survey.

It shows that 71% of the 2400 people who took part don't want this deal.

Obviously this is just a quick snapshot but given that band 5 nurses are amongst the groups who stand to do the best, it is indicative that healthworkers do recognise a pay cut when they see one.

Graham Pink speaks at Karen Reissmann rally

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Graham Pink speaks at Karen Reissmann rally

At the meeting tonight organised by Manchester Community and Mental Health Unison, Graham Pink spoke eloquently about his sacking 17 years ago for whistleblowing.

SGE dead-locked; leaves decision to conference


So the lunchtime SGE meeting, which was supposed to be a quick five minutes to take vote on the pay offer, managed to fill the entire lunchbreak.
We firstly voted on whether we wanted there to be a recommendatiom given to members, and there was an overwhelming majority in favour of making a recommendation.

However, when we took a named vote on whether that recommendation should be for acceptance or rejection of the pay offer the vote was tied at 19-19. As one of the officers commented this put us in something of a constitutional crisis. I suggested that the SGE put both accept and reject positions to the conference and allow conference to decide. This seemed to me to be better than the officers' suggestion of putting a motion which makes no recommendation at all.