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National Delegate Conference 17-20 June 2008

Reduction in qualification time will benefit new members and support recruitment

Davena Rankin
Davena Rankin

by Kate Ramsden

In a significant move, conference agreed to reduce the qualifications period for UNISON legal assistance from 13 weeks to four. A similar rule change in Brighton last year failed to get the two thirds majority needed.

Moving the amendment, Davena Rankin, Glasgow Caledonian University told conference that the current rule disadvantages members who have recently joined and find themselves in need of legal assistance within the 13 weeks through no fault of their own.

She pointed to the example of the senior care workers, whose work permits were jeopardised by changes in immigration law. "Unfortunately the change in law came before the 13 week mark and they were refused legal representation to fight their case. Davena also argued that this rule change would assist with recruitment which is a UNISON priority.

"But what will I say to new members who through no fault of their own require legal representation prior to 13 weeks? What possible justification can there possibly be to deny them access to help?", she asked.

She described how, in her branch, she and other reps will help any member regardless of how long they have been a member. "As a result, we are now the biggest trade union on campus with a density level of 55%.When we stand together we have real power on campus!"

The rule change was agreed in the face of opposition from branches who fear that this may encourage people to join the union just so they can get legal assistance then leave, with the message this gives our longstanding members.