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National Conference Bournemouth 2002
Scotland Daily Briefings
Friday 21 June No 3 More Reports

A busy Friday saw Conference business speed up with several important motions flying through. These included Age Discrimination, Dignity and Respect at Work, Asylum Seekers, Ill Health Retirement, Discrimination in Pension Schemes, Housing Privatisation, Stop the War and Counselling Service for lay members. There was also a moving tribute from Janice Carandang, one of the Filipino nurses 'rescued' by UNISON - see the UK site

Here we look at a few of these which had a significant Scottish Region input - see the UK website for more reports.

38. Ending discrimination in pension schemes

Conference overwhelmingly backed a campaign to combat the Government's refusal to back full equality in pension schemes for non-married and same sex partners.

Moving the Edinburgh motion, John Stevenson welcomed Leceistershire's amendment adding the 'same sex' clarification.

"Last year the Government consulted all public service pension schemes on the effect if discrimination was removed. The vast majority of returns said there would be little or no impact and trustees overwhelmingly backed the call for change. We expected the statutory amendments but nothing has happened", said John.

"UNISON was in the forefront of the campaign to give everyone equal rights on pensions issues. We lobbied, we pushed our sponsored MPs to campaign and we were winning.

"The hard work has been done but we must push on", he said calling for positive action by the National Executive and intervention by the Affiliated Political Fund.

"If this Government is interested in human rights - if it interested in equality for its citizens - if it really wants to eradicate discrimination, then it has to make the statutory amendments".

39. UNISON to lobby on ill-health retirement

Members who need ill-health retirement are losing out because of over-strict rules for medical advisers.

Now UNISON is to lobby MPs for changes to "allow genuinely ill members to get ill-health retirement", said Mary Crichton.

She was 'delighted' to back this motion on behalf of UNISON Scotland, but more so because it came from her own branch of Dundee City.

Mary reassured disabled members that this motion was not looking for wholesale ill-health retirements but was merely trying to address the inflexible guideline that a member would never be able to work again before their 65th birthday.

She went on to give examples. Like the member whose consultant says she will not be able to work again, but the medical adviser won't. Or the member in her 30's who had a double mastectomy and now has a tumour on her liver. The doctors can do no more but the council doctor will not give her ill-health retirement.

Mary urged branches as well as the national union to start lobbying thor MPs.

Comp K: UNISON to campaign against war on Iraq - and against racism

Conference backed a call to explain our position to members against military action following September 11 and to join in with Stop the War demonstrations. It also called for support for members experiencing increased racism because of the war.

But it rejected local action by branches to mount protests 'immediately on hearing news of Iraq being attacked by the USA and Britain'.

The National Executive was supporting 'with qualifications' partly because it was uncertain about whether the Stop the War Coalition was a broad enough coalition; Did it have democratic and transparent structures?

It was a concern shared by Edinburgh's John Stevenson who said "Our principles of democracy and transparency must guide our final decision on any affiliation. It is not unreasonable for us to want to be sure of any organisation's bona fides before we lend our name to it".

John was successfully opposing the amendment calling for the local branch protests. He was concerned that we were calling for a national strategy but opening the door to local initiatives "ignoring the need to be staisfied by the bona fides of groups organising protests".

"We need co-ordination and this amendment risks fragmentation. It creates a role for branches in leading a public and political campaign which risks opening the door to all sorts of constitutional or legal issues. That can only divert from the main issue", he said.

John had started by outlining the City of Edinburgh's credentials in the anti-war campaign. A bulletin issued only a few days after Sepetmber 11 reported on the "pain of our American trade union colleagues as victims and as recuers and carers". But it also called for restraint and opposed racist backlashes.

The branch had set Scottish policy against a war on Iraq and had backed a Scottish Stop the War event. However John stressed that the Scottish coalition was very more broad-based than the English one, was CND led and included churches and other organisations. He urged the NEC to look at other initiatives like the newly set up "No War in Iraq Liason Group" which will have CND in it - if that met UNISON's tests.

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What's Happening? - Guide for new delegates and old ones who were afraid to ask.