Congress Called To Order
General Secretary, Tim Roache, addressed congress and spoke about last night's attack on people in London in which many were injured and lives lost. On behalf of GMB he sent our condolences to all those affected and paid tribute to the emergency services. Congress stood for a minute's silence.
National Banner Ceremony
This year it was the turn of Yorkshire & North Derbyshire Region to carry the GMB's national banner as part of the opening ceremony.
Delegates paid tribute to GMB staff, activists and members who had passed away since Congress 2016. A minute's silence took place in their memory.
President's Address - Mary Turner
Mary Turner addressed Congress giving a rousing speech. She condemned the Tory government for the devastation and poverty they have inflicted on our communities.
Motions To Congress
A number of motions were up for debate and discussion throughout the morning session. These included Congress Procedures, Rule Book Terminology, Improvement of Technology within the GMB, Full Media Advertising, Membership Retention, Updating Workplace Organisers Tool Kit, Older Women in the Workplace, Women against the Trade Union Act, Tackling Poverty, Pregnancy and Maternity Related Discrimination, Justice & Employment Tribunals, Small Claims Limit, State Pension and Humanitarian Crisis to name a few.
MOTION 13: UPDATE WORKPLACE ORGANISER’S TOOLKIT
This Congress recognises the importance of the GMB Workplace Organisers Toolkit. It is a useful guide and point of reference for all reps, new and experienced. However, it is in need of updating. In particular, it needs to reflect the importance of Equalities. The GMB has a proud record in fighting inequalities. However, the first and, possibly most important, tool given to new reps does not reflect how important the issue is. Several years ago, an expanded, dedicated section on health and safety was, quite rightly, added to the Toolkit. It is time for Equalities to receive the same. Congress, therefore, calls for a new, revised Toolkit with greater prominence given to Equalities.
Alex Burton-Keeble from Barnsley Health Branch speaking on Motion 13.
MOTION 16. HOW BEST TO PROTECT OUR MEMBERS
This Congress, with the success of recent campaigns at ASOS and UBER and when considering the present governms increasing attempts to dilute the efficacy of the unions GMB calls on all members to re-double their efforts to identify workplace issues and campaigns which highlight the effect of the Tory's draconian policies. These must be reported to branches in order for them to organise and ensure our members get the best protection possible. This research must be fed back to regions to enable them to map the information. As a union we have activists that are second to none and the finances given to us by our members to offer a more coherent opposition than the present political parties.
Yusra Hussain from GMB Bradford District Care Trust branch speaking on Motion 16.
MOTION 130: SMALL CLAIMS LIMIT
This Congress notes that:
1. 95% of all personal injury claims are valued at £5,000, or less.
2. The current civil court system for accident claims is based on the principal that the polluter pays. This means that if a person is injured and it‟s not their fault any legal fees for a lawyer are paid by the person responsible for the injuries.
3. The government plans to strip citizens of this right by increasing the small claims limit up to £5,000.00. Victims of injury – anywhere, including at work – will have to pay for the legal help they need from any compensation or fight the insurers on their own.
4. This will affect nearly one million people injured through no fault of their own each year.
5. Government data shows a decrease of 41% in whiplash claims since 2010. Insurers have paid out 30% less in motor accident costs than they did in 2010, saving them over £8bn. Premiums are higher now than they were in 2010, and have increased by 14% in the last year.
6. Workplace accident claims have fallen 12% in the last decade.
7. Total number of injury cases has dropped by 6% since 2013.
8. There is no suggestion of a problem with fraudulent workplace accident claims and yet the changes will affect anybody injured anywhere, including at work.
9. The government has announced that implementing its policy will lose the Treasury £135 million.
10. If these reforms go ahead insurers are set to profit from an additional £200 million per year.
11. In 2015, the then CEOs of four insurance companies received packages ranging from £4.55 million to £11.55 million.
12. The government admitted that it won‟t force insurers to pass on the suggested savings they make to consumers.
This Congress believes:
13. Whiplash claims have nothing to do with workers being injured at work. The government is using a so-called “whiplash epidemic” as a fig-leaf to attack peoples‟ legal rights on behalf of the insurance bosses.
This Congress resolves:
14. To oppose an increase in the small claims limit or any decision by the government that reverses the principal that the polluter pays.
15. To call on all GMB Sponsored Labour MPs to act in accordance with this motion
Cindy Gavin from Leeds General branch speaking on Motion 130.
MOTION 367: STOP BRITISH BOMBS FALLING ON YEMEN
This Congress believes that the inhumane bombing of Yemen is a national disgrace. The bombs are made and supplied by British companies breaking Arms Trade Treaty.
We call on the GMB to lobby and apply pressure to halt the supply of arms to the Saudi led coalition.
Mark Hirst from BASF branch speaking on Motion 367.
President's Leadership Awards for Equality
Yorkshire & North Derbyshire Region were the proud recipients of the President's Leadership Award for Equality for the work carried out by our young members' section on mental health and for the fantastic campaign they have run in promoting mental health awareness.
Becci Ions picked up the award on behalf of the region.
Motion 196: THE USE OF INAPPROPRIATE APPRAISALS FOR SUPPORT STAFF
This Congress notes that schools are using the teacher’s appraisal policies for support staff, this policy should not be used in this way as it is designed for teachers and is linked to their pay and conditions.
There is no benefit for our members to have an appraisal based on teacher’s standards.
Support staff will not get a pay rise for reaching targets; they will be more at risk at being taken through a capability process.
We need a national campaign to highlight the issues and pitfalls of this sort of appraisal brings. We should promote a proper CPD that gives our members a proper route for professional development that is relevant to their role in school.
Garry Warwick from Sheffield Local Govt Staff branch speaking on Motion 196
Motion 197: TWO-TIER APPROACH TO DISCIPLINARY AND GRIEVANCE POLICIES
This Congress believes that there is a two-tier Disciplinary and Grievance Policies in schools. More and more support staff are being suspended from schools pending an investigation. If a child or parent makes an allegation against a member of support staff they are suspended. The usual reason given is that it is a safe guarding issue and the school has no other option.
Yet when a complaint is made against a Head Teacher little or nothing is done, they are very rarely, if ever suspended, and the investigations go nowhere.
When a complaint is made against a member of staff a full investigation is usually the next step, and if upheld, it is followed by a disciplinary. This is rarely the case when a grievance is raised against a head teacher.
All staff should be treated the same whether they are support staff or Head Teachers. This two-tier approach to policies has made it easy for support staff to be made scape goats and many are forced out by the draconian ways disciplinary and grievances are used against them.
Hashim Equiano from Leeds Local Govt branch speaking on Motion 197.
Motion 198: THE INSTITUTIONAL BULLYING OF SCHOOL SUPPORT STAFF IN SCHOOLS
This Congress notes that there is an unprecedented rise in the bullying of our support staff in schools. Staff who already work over and above their contractual obligations are being bullied by Head Teachers and Senior Leadership Teams to provide cover, take whole classes but are employed and paid at a lower level.
Staff are forced to work with SEN pupils with little or no training. Many staff are attacked, injured and abused on a daily basis.
When they complain or ask for support they are told it is their job and if they can‟ deal with it then they should find alternative employment.
Every school will have a bullying policy, which would appear in practice not to include our support staff. They are fair game to the school bullies of Head Teachers, Principals, Deputy Heads and Business Managers. We need a campaign to name and shame these bullies and for the consistent offenders we should be dragging them through tribunals.
Mick Hinchliffe from Sheffield Waste & Recycling speaking on Motion 198.
Motion 327: OPPOSE GOVERNMENT PROPOSALS ON FAITH SCHOOLS
This Congress opposes the proposal, in the government green paper “Making Schools Work for Everyone”, to abolish the 50 per cent cap on pupil entry to faith schools. The cap was there to ensure diversity and prevent ghettoisation. The removal of the cap will allow faith schools to be filled with pupils exclusively from its own faith group. Instead of preventing ghettoisation, if this proposal is adopted, it will cause it. As pointed out by Bernard Trafford, “how can a 100 per cent faith school hope to encompass pupils from a variety of backgrounds. “ (TES 16th September, 2016).
Education should be inclusive not exclusive. All pupils should be exposed to different cultures and belief systems. The easiest way to do this is to have pupils from different backgrounds mixing together and learning from each other. Education should break down barriers between people of different faiths and beliefs; not reinforce them. Congress calls on the government to listen to those who know and care about our children‟s education and, drop the proposal.
Ian Kemp from Parkgate branch speaking on Motion 327.
COMPOSITE 16: UNDERSTAFFING IN THE NHS
This Congress notes the survey of Yorkshire and North Derbyshire NHS staff that found that their three main concerns were;
1. Staffing levels
2. Morale at Work
3. Work related Stress.
Together, these three create a vicious circle: understaffing is leading to low morale in the workplace, causing stress, leading to sickness, resulting in more absence, thus more understaffing.
It is time to break the circle. Proper staffing levels would improve morale at work, lowering stress levels and in turn reducing sickness levels. Instead of increasing funding to improve staff levels, hospitals are facing cuts, which in turn cause people to leave under the strain, reducing staffing levels all the more, increasing workplace stress and creating higher sickness levels.
Congress calls on the GMB nationally to hold a national health conference bringing together all NHS workers, politicians, health campaigners and health and social care providers to develop a GMB national strategy so that our members can see that even if this government are hell bent on destroying our NHS that we are not.
Sarah Young from Sheffield Health branch speaking on Composite 16.
Martin Jackson CEC speaking on the CEC Statement on the NHS
COMPOSITE 21: STRATEGY FOR NHS WORKERS
This Congress supports a GMB campaign to lobby the government and individual organisations to stop the closure of hospital beds. Barnsley Hospital closed more beds in November 2016, in a period of the year when beds are so desperately needed. This resulted in record breeches in A + E 4 hour wait in December and January and there is no end in sight to the problem.
The 4 hour target is set to ensure that hospitals admit patients in a timely manner and get them to the specialities that they need. When patients get to hospital that are ill and hope that they are going to be helped by an organisation which they have funded by taxation and National Insurance contributions. In the present climate patients are likely to be kept waiting in unsuitable conditions in ambulances, on corridors, or anywhere a trolley can be squeezed into until a bed can be found. During the time that they are waiting for a bed their health is deteriorating and they are suffering unnecessarily.
Sometimes not just for 4 hours but for 12, 16 or even 24 hours!
The 4 hour wait is a crucial target in the NHS and a good indicator in how well the hospital is delivering its care. There are multiple reasons for organisations not being able to achieve the target, however, closing acute beds is bound to have a negative effect on the hospital‟s ability to provide safe effective care to our patients.
Sarah Young from Sheffield Health branch speaking on Composite 21.
COMPOSITE 22: NHS Cuts, Privatisation and the NHS Reinstatement Bill
This Congress calls for Clinical Commissioning Groups to do what it says on the tin and commission health services in its local community. The government led strategy to cluster these groups together and develop Sustainability and Transformation Plans is abhorrent. The development of these plans has one consideration, which is to save money.
The saving of money is an already overstretched system which is causing the patients, that the NHS serves, unacceptable delays and distress and leads to unsafe levels of care provision and ineffective patient care. The GMB calls upon its members and supporters to oppose STPs at every opportunity and our MP‟s and Councillors to do everything in their remit to prevent STPs from processing their evil Plans.
COMPOSITE 17: Challenging the Exploitation of Social Care Workers
This Congress (1) commits GMB to seeking for all engaged in the provision of residential and domiciliary care (a) the payment of the living wage; (b) fair terms and conditions of employment; (c) payment for time spent travelling between the homes of those under care, not merely payment for time spent in the house, and (d) such structuring of employment as will provide adequate and recognised training;
(2) calls upon an incoming Labour government to ensure local authorities have funds to provide residential, supported and sheltered accommodation and home care.
In support of (1):
Those at the lowest levels of care provision are those who most frequently engage with those receiving care. Poor conditions (including poor pay) mean that there is a natural seeking of financial improvement and a consequent drift from the sector. It is blackmail to say „This is a vocation so pay shouldn‟t matter‟. A steady change of care staff is bad for the recipients as familiarity and time are needed for the establishment of relationships and the development of communication and sensitivity to forms of need. Many of those going to people’s homes have to travel at their own expense and are not paid for time spent travelling. A social worker doing a home visit would not be expected to accept a deduction from their salary for the time spent between the office and the client’s home! A good structure of employment may provide an incentive for people to stay and develop skills if they know these skills will be recognised and rewarded. In support of (2)
The introduction of the private sector as a major provider (and in some areas the only provider) of such care has inevitably meant that a layer of non-productive profit has had to be factored into the cost of provision, so that funding for such care is reduced from the start.
The private sector’s involvement has led to a reduction of available beds, as private companies have sought to make profit and by the provision of their homes have encouraged the closure of council homes, so that, when private homes have closed (owing to unprofitability, not lack of need) there has been no alternative provision available. This means there will be a severe shortfall in the number beds available to meet predicted need in the next few years. Shortage of beds in this sector has meant also that the number of „step-down beds‟ available to the NHS has been reduced, and this has contributed to the „bed blocking‟ found in hospitals.
Local authorities are in a position to adjust provision to the predicted demand in terms of numbers and social needs of a given area. While supported living (sheltered housing but with greater support of various kinds) is now seen as a way forward, there will always be a need for residential care for those with chronic physical or mental health problems and for those requiring respite care. Without an impact on the resourcing of the service, this cannot be provided while there is a requirement that profit be derived from the service.
It would be impractical to legislate against private provision, and certain kinds of provision outside the public sector by charitable bodies have always had an honoured place in the system. (Not only does this include the homes founded by or run by religious bodies. It also includes such specialist facilities as are found in Sue Ryder Homes or the special clientele of such as the Star and Garter homes.) Nevertheless, the funding of local authority provision of a high standard will force the private sector to Improve its provision or give up. It will, in short, use the Tory argument about the value of competition as a way of improving services against the private sector.
Moya O'Neil from Leeds Civic branch speaking on Composite 17.
COMPOSITE 7: MENTAL HEALTH
This Congress seeks to put mental health issues at the forefront of our campaigning on social care. We want training either from GMB or in the workplace to be able to spot the symptoms and be able to support members where appropriate. Labour has a mental health campaign, which we believe we could work with, or alongside to the benefit of our members.
COMPOSITED 8: SUPPORTING LABOUR PARTY CAMPAIGNS
This Congress acknowledges the important role played by GMB members in the Labour campaign for Mental Health and the Labour campaign to End Homelessness and calls upon the GMB to become official supporters of these campaigns.
Over the last year, GMB members have been working tirelessly with the Labour Party on a variety of important issues. Whilst workers‟ rights and trade union action are the most obvious ones, GMB members have been incredibly active in campaigns on other issues such as mental health and homelessness. This is because the trade union values of solidarity and social justice extend beyond the workplace.
Throughout history, trade unionists have fought against injustice in society wherever it arises and this continues to this day, where we have played our part in campaigns concerning the stigma surrounding mental health and the injustice of homelessness in modern day Britain. The campaigns mentioned above have been doing vital work, such as pressuring local councils to do more to reduce homelessness and working with MP‟s to raise the awareness of mental health issues.
Yusra Hussain from Bradford District Care Trust branch speaking on Composite 8.
End of Day's Congress Business