Monday 23 July 2018

Report: Unite Policy Conference 2018

This isn't an official report, but is accurate to the best of my knowledge. If you spot any errors or omissions, please let me know. I have also uploaded the official "progress of business".

You can refer to the conference agenda (the pack of motions prior to compositing (merging motions), emergency motions and most Executive Statements). EC statements on Brexit and Gender Identity are available on the conference page of the Unite web site. UniteLive carried reports on several debates, though some (including on an Emergency Motion I moved) appear to have been well hidden.

Crowd at conference holding NHS 70 placards

The mood of conference was positive. In particular, the involvement of young members continues to grow. We've had young member observers for several conferences now. It was striking that we appeared to have more young member delegates this time. Certainly they played a more significant part in debates. Many had been involved in or leading campaigns and disputes, and young members significantly influenced debate on several questions, succeeding in getting the top table to respond.

Less positive was the continuing excessive use of Executive Statements. The Executive Council (EC) can issue statements at any time, for insertion into any debate. Votes on EC statements are taken first, and if one is passed all the motions on the same topics fall. They have a legitimate role - effectively enabling the EC to put forward an alternative motion on a topic where they would otherwise have to oppose motions and leave us with big gaps in policy. But they are now prolific, and rarely used for this purpose, instead enabling fudge and preventing clear debate and decisions. They often help create a mood of unity in conference, but this is illusory if it is unity around a fudge which hinders coherent action in workplaces and communities.


  • M: Motion
  • ES: Executive Statement
  • C: Composite (merged motions)
  • EM: Emergency Motion
  • Carried: Agreed by conference
  • Fell: Not voted on by conference, e.g. because it conflicted with an ES or M that had already been passed, or nobody moved it
  • Withdrawn: the movers agreed to withdraw the motion, which was not debated. In many cases motions are withdrawn in favour of Composites that include most/all of their points.
  • Remitted: not voted on, but sent to the EC for consideration
  • Lost: put to a vote and rejected
  • Substantive: a motion including one or more amendments
  • A: Amendment
See also my Glossary & Jargon Buster.

The Economy

C6, Industrial Strategy (M 26, 27, 28 & 29) - Carried
M30 UK steel and manufacturing post Brexit - Carried
C7 Public ownership (M31, 33, 34, 35) - Carried
M32 nationalisation - Carried
M36 public ownership - Carried
M40 Change in UK law for companies ceasing trading - Carried
M41 Mergers and acquisitions legislation - unwanted & hostile takeovers - Carried
Speaker: Frances O'Grady, TUC General Secretary
C8 Public transport (M37, 38) - Carried
M39 East Cost Rail bailout - Carried

Defence Diversification

ES1 Defence Diversification - Carried
Comment: though this remains a fudge, it represents a step forward for Unite in trying to implement our longstanding commitment to diversification
M21 Defence Diversification Strategy - Remitted
M22 Defence Diversification - Fell
M23 Defence Jobs - Fell
M24 Opposition to Trident Nuclear Missile System - Fell
M25 Nuclear disarmament - Fell

Political & Labour Party

M102: Against the Football Lads' Alliance - Withdrawn in favour of EM2
EM2: Opposing Racism, The Football Lads Alliance and the Democratic Football Lads Alliance
Note: this was actually a (rather mangled) Composite of two Emergency Motions and M102. I moved it on behalf of the GPM&IT NISC. The text was:
Conference notes the Football Lads Alliance (FLA) is attempting to organise football supporters in demonstrations against 'extremism'. It is taking legitimate concerns around terrorism and then using Islamophobia to stir up fear, division and racism. It represents a dangerous development on the right of British politics.
Whilst claming to be against racism, within their ranks they seem happy to harbour known and organised racists and fascists many who have previously or still are active in groups such as EDL, BNP and the likes. On one demonstration Diane Abbott MP was picked out as a target by one of their leaders where they disgracefully said "Diane Abbott we are coming for you".
Some from within the FLA marches have abused and threatened anti-racists from Stand Up To Racism campaign (SUTR) who were leafletting their demonstration. The FLA Facebook group moderators tolerate hate speech from their supporters against women; against Muslims; against Black and ethnic minorities.
It would be wrong to identify all those who are attracted to FLA or who have marched with the FLA as racists and Islamophobes, however there is a danger that if the group goes unchallenged that those elements within it who are pushing a racist agenda are able to mobilise a new far right street movement.
This conference notes that:
1) The racist march of about 15,000 in London on 9 June, was the largest mobilisation of the far right in the UK since the 1930s and the counter-demonstration called by Stand Up To Racism was small.
2) That it followed large racist demonstrations in several cities in previous weeks, which were followed by racist attacks.
3) The rise in mainstream Islamophobia from politicians and the press and the scapegoating of migrants for problems in employment, housing and public services.
Conference resolves to instruct our Executive to:
  • Support, publicise and mobilise attendance at the demonstration called by Stand Up To Racism on Saturday 14 July against the next major far-right mobilisation in London, and any future far-right marches in our towns and cities and that trade unions should provide stewarding instead of relying on the police to keep people safe.
  • Educate our members about the rise of Islamophobia and the racism of the FLA and DFLA and other similar groups, and by distributing information to all our branches and members.
  • Run a campaign to encourage all football clubs, football fans and supporters' clubs to take a stance against groups such as the FLA and the DFLA and encourage and provide resources to Kick Racism Out of Football and Show Racism the Red Card.
  • Redouble our work with all appropriate anti-racist organisations to build strong local organisation capable of opposing racist mobilisations in our communities
  • Write to the TUC to demand it launch a 'jobs, homes not racism' campaign to unite the wider trade union movement and to campaign effectively against the far right. This should include workers taking all legal steps (up to and including strike action) to disrupt all attempts to organise for hte purposes of extending the rhetoric of the FLA and DFLA or any similar organisation.
Note: the importance of it became even clearer on 14 July when RMT and Unite trade unionists were physically attacked after a demonstration in support of "Tommy Robinson" (Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) and Donald Trump.

M104 Restore clause 4 in the Labour Party - Lost
M105 Extension fo the franchise - Carried

Improving Health & Safety

C15 Mental Health - a union matter (M76, 77, 78, 79) - Carried
Comment: This was a very moving debate with delegates recounting their own experiences
M72+A Workplace health & wellbeing representatives - Carried
M73 Shift working and its impact on our members - Withdrawn
M74 Classifying stress as a reportable occupational disease - Carried
M75 Occupational health in the workplace - Carried

Global Solidarity

M68 Yemen - humanitarian aid and ceasefire - Carried
EM3: Latin America - Carried
M70 Mexico - Carried (Amendment withdrawn)
EM5 Brazil - Carried
EM4 Turkey / Kurds and progressive forces - Carried
M71 Israel / Palestine - Carried
EM6 Gaza - Carried
Note: this was from the GPM&IT NISC


ES2: Brexit - Carried
C1: Brexit and working people (M2, 3, 10 & 11) - Fell
C2 Brexit - a vote on the final deal (M4 & 5) - Fell
C3 The Future of Brexit (M6 & 7) - Fell
C4 Brexit and Free Movement (M12 & 14) - Fell
M8 Brexit - Fell
M9 Leaving the EU - Fell
M13 Workers' rights to move freely and be treated equally - Fell
Comment: I moved M13, from my own branch, and was disappointed that the EC knocked out what was primarily an equalities motion using its Brexit statement, which failed to clearly defend the rights of  workers and members who may have travelled or decide to travel. When Unite materials talk about workers' rights under Brexit, the rights of current and future members who aren't UK citizens barely get a mention.
M1 Brexit and Ireland - Carried
EM1 Brexit and Gibraltar - Carried

Pensions & Retirement

M96 the future of state pension - Carried
M97 How do we improve the quality of life for our ageing population - Carried
M100 Challenging the mass media portrayal of older people - Carried
Speaker: Jeremy Corbyn
M98 Fuel Poverty - Carried
M99 Funeral Poverty - Carried
M101 Carers' Allowance - Carried


C16 Automation (M80, 81, 82) - Carried
C17 Shorter Working Time (M83, 84) - Carried
M85: 4 day, 28 hour working week - Remitted
C18 Dignity At Work (M88 & 89) - Carried
M86 setting an agenda for excellent apprenticeships - Carried
M87 Future skills - Carried
M90 organising young workers - Carried
M91 worker cooperatives as opposed to workplace closures - Carried
M92 challenging increased workloads - Carried
M93 + A direct labour organisations - Carried
M94 collective bargaining and solidarity action in workplaces, industries and services - Carried
Speaker: Ken Neumann, USW


C13 sexual harassment and sexual abuse (M60 & 61) - Carried
C14 women's health (M63 & 64) - Carried
M62 menopause at work - Carried

Speaker: Lauren Townsend, TGI Fridays

Membership at TGI Fridays has rocketed in response to the (highly profitable) company wanting to take a huge chunk of tips off waiting staff to subsidise low pay for kitchen staff. Members at several restaurants were on strike during the conference. Delegates joined a protest at the Brighton restaurant and engaged in a bit of direct action, with Len McCluskey addressing diners to explain the dispute. For more information see #AllEyesOnTGIs.

EM8: Irish repeal the 8th - women's choice - Carried
C10: Brexit and equalities (M66 & 67) - Carried
C11 Rights for people with disabilities (M52 & 53) - Carried
M47 improving the face of our union by increasing employee diversity - Carried
M48 union representation at constitutional committees - Remitted
M49 equality impact assessments - Carried
M50 unconscious bias - Carried
M51 black and asian ethnic minroity activity based budgeting - Remitted
M54 asylum seekers - Carried
M55 migrant workers - Remitted (Amendment fell)

ES3 Gender identification - Carried
C12 gender identification (M56, 57, 58) - Remitted
M59 Gender recognition act - Withdrawn
Comment: this was a significant debate, which unfortunately I missed due to industrial business. I am told that young members made a key contribution, particularly in criticising the decision of leading figures in Unite signing a one-sided letter to the Morning Star with notorious transphobes. Len responded with a clarification. Many others signed responses such as this and this from delegates at the TUC LGBT conference. Thankfully, despite the distraction of the letter, Unite now has policy supporting the rights of trans people.

M65 International Women's Day 2019 - Remitted (with assurances that the EC would act on it)

Campaigning against austerity

C5 Universal Credit (M17, 18, 19, 20) - Carried
Speaker: Sharon Graham - Work Voice Pay

NHS 70th birthday

Conference marked the 70th birthday of the NHS and recognised the importance of defending and improving it.

Social Action

C24 NHS (M127, 128, 130) - Carried
C25 - NHS 70th anniversary (M131, 132, 133, 134) - Carried
M126 NHS pay parity - Carried
M129 NHS car parking costs - carried
M155 Health & social care - Carried
C23 Housing (M124 & 125) - Carried
M122 homelessness and rough sleepers - Carried
M123 Grenfell Tower - Carried
M121 Community Rights - Carried
M135 Public scrutiny over public money - Carried
M136 Justice in crisis - Carried
EC report and 2017 accounts - Received by conference
Speakers: John McDonnell and Ann Pettifor
ES4 local government funding - Carried
M15 local government cuts - a Unite strategy - Fell
Comment: M15 from the London & Eastern Local Authorities RISC was calling on Labour councils to take a firmer stance against cuts and privatisation than the EC statement
M16 tackling the impact of austerity - Carried

Rights for workers and their unions

C19 Trade union freedom (M107, 108, 109) - Carried
M106 Campaign for trade union rights - Carried
M111 banning of subcontracting of work during industrial action - Carried
C20 precarious employment (M112, 113) - Carried
C21 precarious employment (M115, 116) - Carried
M114 Gig economy - Carried
C22 age and the National Living Wage (M119 & 120) - Carried
M110 strengthening TUPE legislation - Carried
M117 Direct Action - Carried
Comment: this is a significant motion to train activists in direct action techniques to support our campaigns
M118 amendment to the Equality Act 2010 - Remitted

Energy and Environment

C9 atmospheric pollution (M42, 43) Carried
M44+A clean energy - Carried
M45 Backing of UK coal industry - Carried
EM10 Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon - Carried
EM7 National Grid dispute - USA - Carried
Comment: the US subsidiary of National Grid has locked out over 1000 USW members

Union Administration and Membership services

C26 Union Learning Fund (M142, 143, 145) - Lost
M144 Sustainable learning opportunities for all Unite members - Carried
M153 Paperless meetings - Remitted
Note: this was from the GPM&IT South East RISC
M154 environment - Carried
M137 Regional Officer Allocations - Remitted
Comment: this important motion from the GPM&IT NISC aimed to address a situation where sectors are scattered across the allocations of dozens (hundreds in many cases) of Regional Officers. It was remitted after assurances that the issue would be addressed.
M140 Servicing our membership - Remitted
M138 Unite branches - access to Unite resources and support - Carried
M139 Helping Unite activists communication with members - Carried
Comment: conference overturned the EC, who were hiding behind bogus GDPR data protection arguments, on this motion, which is vital for effectiveness at workplace and branch level.
M147 bank charges for small branches - Withdrawn
M151 administration - Carried
Comment: again conference overturned the EC. The motion was to stop members being moved between branches and regions without branch officers being kept informed.
M141 strike funds - Carried
Comment: I moved this motion to help more members benefit from their own strike funds
M146 review of Unite carers' policy - Carried
M148 Lack of respect towards the retired members section - Remitted
M149 Protecting Unite's reputation online - Remitted
M150 safeguarding the union's heritage - Carried
M152 lond worker policy - Carried
EM9 Marc Wadsworth - Lost


The following were elected as the Standing Orders Committee for the 6th Policy Conference: Stephen Frogatt, Frances Hourihane, Pat Davies, Dave Allen, Martin McMulkin, Siobhan McCready, Sam Webster-Moore, Agnes Hilditch, Lisa Higgins, Barry Hartshorn

The following were elected as the Appeals Committee for 2018-20: Lorraine Mannion, Jeff Robinson, Jim Kelly, Ian King, Lisa Colquhoun, John Gillespie, Gaynor Worrell, Tracey Blythe, Ivan Monckton, Melanie Sutton


Though it wasn't discussed at conference, delegates were given copies of an updated Unite Rulebook. The changes are a response to the new GDPR Data Protection legislation.


Delegates were provided with copies of a new Unite Anti-Fracking Toolkit. This should be going on the Unite web site soon. For now I've uploaded a copy myself.


As ever, much of the value of attending conference is the informal discussions with other attendees, from which you learn as much as the debates, and can get things done. I spent a fair amount of conference discussing the unresolved dispute at Fujitsu, particularly given that the company sent proposals shortly before conference began. I was dismissed in January (see the "reinstate Ian Allinson" statement) but am still actively involved in the dispute and, as a victimised worker under Rule 6, was still able to attend conference. Reps in Fujitsu post updates on their web site from time to time:

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