1. Regional Secretary Paul Finegan was absent due to illness. His deputy, Mick Whitley, stood in.
2. The chair highlighted the poor attendance by lay members at meetings of many committees in the region and the increasing numbers of complaints from members about full time officers. He was concerned that the north-west had lost its position as one of the best regions in the union. I raised concerns about the lack of management in the region – there should be no need to wait for member complaints if officers fail to schedule meetings or submit reports. Mick said that a tighter rein would be kept on the sector secretaries.
3. I complained about the decision to merge the NW Electrical Engineering & Electronics (EEE) and IT & Comms (ITC) Regional Industrial Sector Committees (RISCs) which had been taken without any communication or consultation with committee members. The chair agreed that a meeting with the relevant officers and members of the RISCs would be organised to discuss the proposal.
4. The Regional Committee approved the proposal to create a Fujitsu North-West branch.
5. The region will not only write to all branch officers about the elections in June, but to all reps as well – elections are required in both all branches and all workplaces and not all are the same or in good communication with each other.
6. The Regional Secretary had written to branches saying that “provided you are a constituted branch and we have received completed signed copies of your Branch returns accompanied by relevant bank statements”...”As per rule – Branch Administration and/or Fund payments due to the Branch will continue to be paid by BACs payment directly into your Unity Trust bank accounts”. Given that payments to some branches had been stopped without any explanation, I had queried what a “constituted branch” meant. The Regional Secretary had responded that “they simply need to have the appropriate elected officials in place and for those individuals to be logged on to our membership system”. I asked why funds had then been blocked to constituted branches, and was told by the chair that this was a national action, not from the region.
7. The regional chair said that they would do a briefing for branches on doing accounts. He suggested that a new handbook for branch officers was needed (in addition to the training courses available) given that new officers would be elected in June.
8. UNITE Political Director Steve Hart explained the union’s political strategy.
9. The Regional Committee pledged its ongoing support for the workers at Mayr Melnhoff Packaging who have been treated disgracefully but who are putting up a great fight to keep the plant open. It was agreed that the weekly schedule of activities would be circulated so that members could join in and show their support.
10. Senior Regional Organiser Mike Thompson gave an update on organising. The highlight was the successful claim for union recognition via the CAC at Eddie Stobart Daresbury.
11. The Regional Committee discussed a number of remits from RISCs and AACs. Due to the way the meetings are conducted, it is hard to tell what decisions (if any) are been taken. These are key ones I’m confident about and that weren’t just noted:
a. A remit from the Manchester Area Activists Committee calling on the EC to immediately adopt a policy similar to that agreed at the 2000 MSF conference (to ban secret payments to union employees) and to bring forward a similar rule change to the next rules conference was rejected.
b. A remit from the Manchester Area Activists Committee on cleansing of membership records was agreed.
c. A remit from the Merseyside Area Activists Committee supporting “Occupy Liverpool” was agreed.
d. A remit from the Merseyside Area Activists Committee calling for a commemoration of the 30th anniversary of militant labour in Liverpool was agreed.
e. A motion from the Merseyside Area Activists Committee opposing the EDL was agreed.
12. UNITE organiser Michelle Smith gave an update on Liverpool Against the Cuts and members are encouraged to get involved.
13. It was agreed to hold open Area Activists Meetings in each area before the public sector strikes on 10 May and to invite PCS to join these, in line with our cooperation agreement.
14. A request from the Manchester Area Activists Committee to appoint a lead office for Greater Manchester who could be the union’s public face, circulate information about campaigns, and liaise with campaigns in the area, will be considered by the regional Finance & General Purposes Committee.
15. Terry Abbot was elected as a delegate to the national Labour Party conference.
16. A replacement female delegate to the UNITE policy conference is required. It was agreed to ask female Regional Committee members who weren’t in attendance.
17. John Lea has been appointed as the Regional Education Officer.
18. The UNITE NW retired members are providing stewards for the Pensioners’ Parliament organised by the National Pensioners’ Convention and are asking for a stall to highlight the union’s campaign on fuel poverty and UNITE membership in return.
19. Pete Gillard has been elected as chair of the Standing Orders Committee for the 2012 Policy Conference. The number of motions submitted had dropped from 330 to 210 for this conference. Five motions (including two from NW branches) had been ruled out of order. Each branch and committee can submit one amendment to a motion.
20. Helen Osgood gave the equalities report. Equality Reps training is still available on 14th May – details are on the UNITE web site. Funding was agreed for a number of important equality events.