Guide for new delegates (and old ones who were afraid to ask),
With up to 2,000 delegates and visitors, Conference can be a daunting
prospect, especially if you don't know what's happening. But now
you will, thanks to SiU's handy guide.
Monday sees the all Scotland delegates meeting to give last minute
information and discuss Scottish input. Other regions and branches
attend to lobby support for their motions. It is also your chance
to push your issues.
MONDAY 15 JUNE 5.00PM Grand Hotel, Brighton, just next to the
Local Government Branches will also meet at the Grand Hotel
at 5.30 on Saturday 13 June.
Credentials Bar Code
No this is not a secret sign to get a drink. Your credential card
has a bar code which will scan you in. You must wear the card at
all times. Wearing it at your waist is not helpful to the scrutineers
on the door, will lead to delays and may end up with more than you
expected being scanned!
There is a seating plan in th Conference pack. We traditionally
get at least one seat wrong in the plan - so if you find yourself
sitting on someone's knee, it's likely to be a mistake.
This details all motions submitted. It also has more detailed useful
You will also get a booklet with composite motions, listed by letters
of the alphabet (usually with the numbers of the motions in brackets).
Speaking, speakers lists, timings
Seats for speakers FOR and AGAINST are labelled at the front. If
in doubt, staff at the Rostrum Control will help. In any case it
is best to tell them you want to speak because they may have a list
- and with amendments it is not always clear which seat you should
It also helps to speak to the Scottish Regional Delegates first!
Speakers can speak only once in a debate (except for the right
of reply). Movers get five minutes, however, Conference sometimes
reduces this but you will get warning to chainsaw all those bits
you loved dearly out of your speech.
Subsequent speakers get three minutes. Always start your speech
by giving your name and your branch
Click here for details on the rostrum lights
for timing speeches.
Right of Reply
The mover of a motion is allowed a Right of Reply at the end of
the debate or before voting on an amendment (but not both).
This is a reply to points raised in the debate and cannot be abused
by introducing new stuff (although many try it).
Like any other formal meeting, Conference is run by a series of
rules. This often seems very bureaucratic but the system ensures
some semblance of order is kept.
The President chairs Conference and their ruling on any issue is
Normally votes are taken by holding up bright coloured cards and
the President will decide whether a count is needed.
If it is close, or a major issue is involved, the chair can call
for a branch card vote. Delegates can also call for a card vote
but only if 10% of us shout out with voting cards up immediately.
If this is on an amendment, the debate is suspended until the result
Branch card votes are stamped with the voting entitlement of your
branch and with either FOR or AGAINST.
The correct number must be used for the particular vote. As a reminder,
this information is usually put up on electronic screens at either
side of the stage. See Handy Hints
Card votes are published in UNISON Focus.
- If you split your vote, make sure the figures add up
- make sure you've SIGNED your card
- and that the branch name is on it
- Make sure it is the right numbered card vote.
- Get your photo in advance. Photo booths are few and far between.
- We hope the Scottish Briefings will be of some use to you. But
for safety, do not leave papers on the floor.
- Don't leave mobile phones on.
- Don't walk in front of the signers.
- Lots of people will be pushing papers and leaflets at you as
you come to Conference. Not taking one does not make you a bad
person! If you took them all, you would be like a walking rain-forest
Blinkin' lights and points of order
Time limits for speeches are shown by lights on the rostrum.
Even if you don't notice the light, there is always some bright
spark who will shout ‘time', usually when they're not agreeing with
It can be useful to have an ‘escape clause' in your speech to cut
to so you can finish on a good note..
The lights mean....
Yellow Light: means the speaker has a minute to go.
Red Light: means ‘zip the lip' now, not after you've made
ten more points.
Green Light: means a point of order has been raised and
will be heard before the next speaker.
Points of Order
You can move ‘next business', ‘adjournment' or ‘private session'
but the most used is ‘that the question be put'.
The President must put this to Conference and, if carried, we go
straight to the right of reply, and the vote on the motion or amendment.
(The chair can caution there has not been enough debate.)
You can only move most points of order if you haven't already spoken
in the debate.
ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CONFERENCE MYSTERIES
Did I just miss something?
Grab your anorak for all you need to know to bore them right
After years of being caught out by jargon and sneaky procedural
wheezes, your SiU scoop brings you a rough guide to help you out.
Standing Orders Committee (SOC)
Comprises reps elected by each Region (ours is Bob Revie and he's
really helpful) and three from the NEC who organise the order of
business, composites and so on.
The chair will report each morning on the day's business. Sometimes
their rulings are challenged but it rarely makes sense to do so
since the committee reflects regions' priorities.
Most motions haven't got a chance of being heard and will be referred
to the NEC, or somewhere.
So it is worth looking to see what position the NEC has taken on
Agenda and Priorities
The running order (you'll get one at Conference) is set after consultation
with regions on priorities. Motions are grouped into ‘themes' to
avoid duplication and the risk of voting against what we'd already
voted for earlier (yes we've done that before!).
Has yours fallen off?
Come Friday (oh, come, come Friday), there is a chance to re-prioritise
your pet motion that may have fallen off the agenda or was not
On Thursday, we will circulate branches with a form to pick their
priorities for Friday afternoon. These will be collated, go to the
SOC which will set out a Friday pm agenda that reflects (hopefully)
Conference's wishes. That can be an eye-opener!
Conference has to vote to hear emergency motions in the first place
(after the SOC has decided it is an emergency and is relevant and
competent - a tricky task by the looks of some of the dross that
To qualify for an emergency, it must have been impossible to submit
the motion before the deadline. Even then, it has to be in five
days in advance unless, of course, the emergency has not yet happened!
An amalgam of similar motions drawn together into one motion that
nobody likes! Not fair really, because many composites do succeed
in combining areas of agreement through negotiation.
Suspending Standing Orders
A super wheeze (needing a two thirds majority) often tried to get
an outside speaker up or do something that's not on the agenda.
To be avoided in most cases because it cuts across agreed priorities.
Where a pile of similar motions and amendments are all moved one
after the other, there is an all-in debate and we vote on them one
after the other at the end.
When the NEC asks for a motion to be referred to them for further
clarification, elaboration, or investigation.
Mike Kirby and Lilian Macer are this year's Scottish Regional delegates.
They are there to help (in seats at the back of the hall), especially
if you want to get into a debate - they'll tell you how, who to
see, and if you're not careful (or lucky), what to say! Sincerely
folks, they are an essential source of advice, information and help.