Report from UNISON National Black Members conference

Camden Unison members at National Black Members Conference were Hugo Pierre, ‘Jare Oyewole, Jahnelle Hutton-Parr, Dolly Akin-Agunbiade, Muna Matewos, Vino Sangarapillai, Fatima Fernandes and Howard Elliott.

The Conference was in Bournemouth from Friday 31st January to Sunday 2nd February 2020.

The Conference started with an address from the General Secretary, Dave Prentis, and a presentation of an award to a young Black member for her efforts in recruitment. In his speech, Mr Prentis highlighted the negative impact of the Conservative general election victory on trade unions and public sector workers. He bemoaned the loss of Labour seats, including that of former Unison President, Eleanor Smith, who had lost her seat in Wolverhampton South West. Although Ms Smith had lost her seat, there was also a new Unison Black Member in Parliament – as Kim Johnson had held the seat of Liverpool Riverside for Labour.

There were a number of motions discussed on the first day, including racial disparity in the public sector and discrimination at early stages of the recruitment process against applications with “non-British” names.

The second day of Conference (Saturday 1st February) was the first day after Brexit and the Conference Chair, Carol Sewell, pledged that the union would continue to support its EU citizen members.

Conference was addressed by the Unison President, Josie Bird, who worked as an admin officer for Newcastle City Council. She emphasised the importance of Unison’s international work, and her presidential charity for the year was one supporting indigenous people and peasant activists in Colombia – a country where there was a great deal of violence against trade unionists and social movement activists.

Yvonne Green, the London Regional Convenor, was presented with the Mandala award for her work for the union and its Black members.

Motions and the annual report of the National Committee highlighted the importance of reducing the stigma around mental illness for Black workers. This was one of the priorities of the Committee.

Members discussed the gender and ethnicity pay gap – with Black women workers being paid much less on average than white workers (whether male or female). In terms of the ethnicity pay gap, London had some of the starkest figures – with an ethnicity pay gap of 21.7% between white and Black workers. Speakers at conference congratulated Samira Ahmed on winning her equal pay case against the BBC.

There were fringe meetings at conference, and Hugo chaired one on the rise of the far-right and how to combat it.

Conference had a guest speaker, Katrina Ffrench, who was the CEO of StopWatch. The organisation’s role was to monitor stop & search and its disproportionate racial impact. She also highlighted the impact of facial recognition technology and its effect on civil liberties.

Conference considered motions on international issues – including two submitted by Camden. Vino spoke on the motion about defending the human rights and civil liberties of Kashmiris, and Dolly spoke on the one about standing up to xenophobic attacks on African migrants in South Africa. Both motions were passed – although the vote on the Kashmir motion was close.

Conference also considered rule changes. The proposal that motions be limited to 500 words and amendments be limited to 250 words was rejected. Our branch delegates voted against, feeling that in some complex situations – and where detailed actions were requested of the National Committee – it was important that motions be permitted to be longer.

Another guest speaker at Conference was Kye Gbangbola, whose son Zane died in 2014. Zane died following flooding in the basement of their home. This flooding had resulted in the release of poisons which had killed Zane. The inquest said that it was carbon monoxide poisoning but the view of others (including the FBU) was that it was hydrogen cyanide from a landfill site underneath their home. There appeared to have been a cover-up regarding the presence of toxic waste underneath the site their home and others had been built on. Mr Gbangbola was campaigning for an independent inquiry which could reveal the truth of the matter.

Conference was an interesting experience and it was good to see so many Black activists gathered together to exchange views on what was important for workers and Black communities.


Report from UNISON National Executive Council Greater London Regional Delegates December 2019

General Secretary Report

The main topic for discussion at the December meeting of the NEC was the result of the General Election the previous week. Obviously the result was devastating for anyone who wanted to see an end to the years of Tory austerity and the bulk of the meeting discussed the potential reasons and how we could respond to it. There was general agreement that a Tory government with a significant majority would be likely to attack trade unions, and attack the people we provide services to.

The GS outlined some of the reasons he thought had contributed to the election defeat for Labour. He said he believed it was more complex than Brexit and that reasons others had cited to him included saying the manifesto had ‘over-promised’ and lacked credibility, that Labour had become a ‘metropolitan educated elite’, and that the rallies were talking to those who already were going to vote Labour. It was also said that the Labour Link was the place to discuss nominations for the next Labour leader and deputy leader in the forthcoming election.

The points generated a discussion around whether or not these were really the case, and also about issues like why Labour Councils needed to be more vocal against Tory cuts, about the impact in Scotland and the independence movement, and the need for greater opposition to austerity. NEC members also raised the need to look at how we could be part of mobilising those who campaigned for Labour, especially young people, and said that the discussions about why the Tories had won and what we did next weren’t just for the Labour Link.

There were at times quite strong differences of opinion about why Labour had lost the election, and particularly some ‘traditional Labour’ seats. Although NEC members had differing views on this, there was agreement that we would need to organise and challenge the Tories.


There was feedback from the Grovember recruitment initiative and it was reported that most regions and service groups had increased their membership.

Term-Time Workers

The legal ruling for term-time workers (Brazel ruling in the Court of Appeal) was raised as an important legal challenge that we can organise around. This is the ruling that all workers are entitled to 28 days paid leave. It was reported that UNISON has agreed to waive the 4 week membership rule for such cases to help recruitment and maximising both the number of cases and impact. See the link below for the UNISON press release on the case:

Service Group Executive Elections

A report around election procedures was received, which led to a discussion about needing clarity on the low pay rate, and how we can increase engagement and turnout. This included electronic voting, and who could campaign where. Although there wasn’t agreement on every point of the procedures, they were passed.


The budget for the year was agreed, and the draft organising objectives were also passed for 2020.

There is also a report of the NEC meeting on the UNISON website that can be found in the link below, and this report from the 4 Regional reps is to supplement that:

If you would like one of your Regional NEC reps to come and speak at your branch/AGM then you can contact us below:

Liz Wheatley –

Helen Davies –

Jo-Ann Stacey-Marran –

Eddie Brand –

Report from UNISON National Executive Council Greater London Regional Delegates October 2019

General Secretary report

The meeting opened with the General Secretary’s report. For those of you who aren’t familiar with how this works, the first main item at all NEC meetings is always a report from the General Secretary (GS) on issues since the previous meeting. The first topic was that UNISON is still recruiting, with an increase of 8413 members so far this year.

It was also reported that UNISON has taken more industrial action than all other unions put together and the disputes at Compass and AddAction were specifically mentioned and should be publicised.

The GS reported on activities around the Climate Emergency in Green Action week, where there were stall, rallies and protest (there are some pictures and a report on the UNISON website).

The legal win about all employees being entitled to a minimum of 28 days paid leave was reported.

The report then moved on to Brexit and the Labour Party conference, which was covered by Gordon McKay. There was a lively debate around the vote on Brexit at the Labour Party conference as UNISON was the only major union to vote for the motion that was defeated at the conference (3 other smaller unions did too). NEC members expressed concerns as they felt that to vote this way was against UNISON policy, and that a more accurate reflection of current union policy would have been to vote for the other motion on Brexit (the one that won and is now Labour policy). This disagreement was not resolved in the meeting but Brexit will continue to be a topic of discussion and debate.

The other main discussion point was what else could be done around the Climate Emergency, including supporting the Extinction Rebellion protests that had started 2 days previously. It was agreed that UNISON would do more around this, including contacting the Scottish TUC about the COP26 talks that would be in Glasgow in Dec 2020, and trying to pull together a National Green Network.

General Election

The next item discussed was the likelihood of a general election before the end of the year, where a 3-pronged strategy was outlined – influencing our own member, engaging the general public and supporting Labour candidates via the Labour Link. There was a brief discussion around Jeremy Corbyn having rallies like in the last election, where the vote went up by about 3 million, and whether UNISON could do a comparison of the main party manifestos which could highlight issues like the NHS, education etc.


The next recruitment initiative in November was discussed, including that it would also focus on retention and the need for branches to have regular contact with new members.

There is a report on the UNISON website and this one by your regional NEC reps is to supplement it. Go to

If you would like one of your regional NEC reps to come to speak at your branch/AGM then you can contact us as below:

Liz Wheatley – or 020 7974 1633

Helen Davies –

Jo-Ann Stacey-Marran –

Eddie Brand –

Greater London Region UNISON Eric Roberts Award

20200205_103611Camden UNISON stewards in NSL were recognised by Greater London Region of UNISON this year when they were presented with the Eric Roberts annual organising award at the Regional Council AGM.

Over the last decade, members recruited, won union recognition and elected stewards in each base, and they have now won three pay disputes. In the most recent dispute last year, members took 33 days of strike action, but they are now amongst the highest paid traffic wardens on a private contract. They have shown that you can still fightback and win on a private contract.

The award was given to them in recognition of all the hard work and determination they have shown in winning their dispute last year. It was presented to one of the stewards by UNISON President Josie Bird, and although given in the name of the stewards, it’s for every one of our members working at NSL who stood firm and won!


Camden UNISON AGM – Wed 4 March, 3.30-5pm Rooms 10.10/11/12, 5 Pancras Square Please Note – Paid time off has been agreed, including reasonable travel time

Each year Camden UNISON holds an Annual General Meeting, open to all our members, where we report on recent activities and also discuss what we plan to do during the coming year. The meeting also discusses any motions submitted by members.
Any member can submit a motion to be discussed at the AGM, but it must be sent to by the deadline on 5pm on Monday 17 February. If you have never written a motion before and would like to talk to someone about the best way to do it, please contact us at the Camden UNISON Branch Office and we’ll do our best to help you – although don’t be put off, it’s a very straightforward thing to do! We have the deadline so that there is time to get the agenda completed and circulated to members before the meeting. This helps make it possible for anyone to get involved.
As well as the meeting on 4 March, we will also be holding satellite meetings. The main one of these will be in the Crowndale Centre and more details are to follow shortly. This will be during a lunchtime. We will also be arranging to have meetings in each of the NSL bases – our members there will not be given time off to attend the main AGM. Dates for these will be out soon.
Retired Members AGM – Wed 4 March, 1.30pm
Room 10.10, 5PS
On the same day, retired members of the branch also have their AGM – specific emails/letters have gone out giving notice, but please put the date in your diary if you’re one of our retired members.
Branch elections
Each year, we elect our UNISON stewards and branch officers. Information about this has already been sent out, but if you want to stand as a steward or branch officer, please complete the relevant form (see attachments) and return to by 5pm on Friday 7 Feb. If you want to know more about what’s involved, please do contact us in the Branch Office. Local stewards represent UNISON members in their work area/team, try to recruit new members and take part in the branch campaigns. Branch Officers have responsibility for departmental/corporate issues, negotiations and campaigns. We are able to offer quite a lot of support and training so just get involved!
Stand Up To Racism Trade Union Conference – Sat 8 Feb, 12-4.30pm
SOAS (Brunei Gallery), Russell Square WC1H 0XG
Camden UNISON is sending a delegation to this important conference, so if you are interested in coming along contact so that we can reserve a place on the delegation. There’s a great line up of speakers and it’s a good chance for us to discuss with other trade unionists how we can challenge racism in and out of the workplace.
March Against Racism – Sat 21 March, 12 noon, central London
UN Anti Racism Day is on 21 March, and in London there will be a march and rally/gig. More details will be out soon, but get the date in your diary!
Hope to see you at some of these events.
Liz Wheatley
Branch Secretary
London Borough of Camden

Telephone:   020 7974 1633
3rd floor Crowndale Centre
218 Eversholt Street
London NW1 1BD


Camden Staff Young Workers Event.

 Are you aged between 18 – 27?

 Do you want to know your rights within the work place?

If you’ve answered ‘Yes’ to the above questions then come along. There will be representatives from Camden UNISON and Camden Black Workers Group there to answer your questions.


Food and drink will be provided in a relaxed atmosphere.

12:30pm-2pm, Thursday 23rd January

Room 10.12 Kingsgate, 5PS

This meeting is jointly hosted by Camden UNISON and Camden Black Workers Group. Please could you confirm your attendance by emailing Jahnelle Hutton-Parr OR Shenae  Lawrence or feel free to call them.



Friday 13 December 2019 was a bad day for anyone who wanted to see an end to Tory austerity – we are now faced with Boris Johnson having a large majority in parliament and even the first Queen’s speech outlined the planned attacks on the right to strike, going back on a promise to increase the Living Wage and worsening immigration rules. So as trade unionists we face a challenge. This meeting is a chance to discuss how that result came about, and what we can do to resist these attacks.

mr 45

1pm-2pm, Thursday 16 January

Room 11.12 Kingsgate, 5PS


Branch Elections Nominations open Monday 13 January

Each year, we elect our UNISON stewards and Branch Officers, and the election period opens on Monday. As well as encouraging those of you who have already been a steward or officer over the last year to stand again, this is a really good opportunity for anyone else to get involved/stand in the elections. A separate email with details of how to do this and nomination forms will go out this week, so please keep an eye out for it and seriously consider getting more active in your union branch.  Continue reading

2020 will be the year we must also start to organise against Johnson’s government.

The results of the General Election will be a shock and disappointing for many of us. Although UNISON members will have voted for different parties, as the Branch Secretary of a public sector trade union, certainly I was hoping to see a different result.
Over the next few days and weeks I’m sure we will have lots of discussions about how this result came about, but Camden UNISON has a proud history of resisting austerity and standing up against racism and other discrimination. There are members in the branch who helped organise opposition to Thatcher’s government in the 1980s, and whilst we’re having those discussions about this vote, 2020 will be the year we must also start to organise against Johnson’s government.
If you want to find out how you can get involved just get in touch by emailing as there’s going to be lots for us to do!
In solidarity,

Liz Wheatley

Pension Committee deputation 26/11/19



Camden Council has declared a Climate Emergency – we believe that part of taking action around this includes the Council reducing its carbon footprint, and divesting the pension fund from fossil fuel investments is one way to do this.

As a trade union of course we want a decent pension for our members, and for working class people in general, but we also want a world where we can enjoy our retirement and to know we are leaving a sustainable world for future generations.

UNISON believes that modern fiduciary duty requires that pension fund investments are made in the interests of scheme members, that the financial obligation is not to maximize returns but to ensure there is enough resources to meet the pension benefit obligation. Therefore these financial regulations do not justify investment in the fossil fuel industry, nor slowing moves to decarbonise the fund. Continue reading