Brighton, Sunday 19th June 2016
Controversy! It appeared we were all taken a little by surprise when we were asked to vote for a referral back to the standing orders committee on an emergency motion previously ruled out of order. WET conferences aren’t well known for this kind of excitement but we all calmed down after the matter was dealt with…..
Our guest speaker Alex Cunningham, Shadow Minister for Water and Environment, recognised the good work STW is undertaking through their apprenticeship scheme. He also gave credit to us reps for collectively supporting and pushing the agenda for a Living Wage within the water industry. Alex mentioned the water industry first after Ruth Davies had earlier emphasized the importance of our joint venture with UU – a recognition perhaps that our sector is moving further into the spotlight in a fast changing environment (literally and metaphorically!)
John Jones asked if Alex would support full nationalisation of the water industry under a Labour government led by ‘brother Corbyn’. “It’s a fine dream” was his reply. (**as I update this on 29 June it looks more and more distant as the days go by….)
Motion 1, trackers, called for an end to vehicle trackers being used as a disciplinary tool, guidance on use of trackers and improvements in the way they’re used. Our GMB colleague Colin Bennett, a constant champion of this issue, would be pleased to know this motion was carried.
Motion 2 was also carried. It called for a seminar and workshop to share lessons learnt from pension disputes in the water industry.
Motion 3 saw us agreeing to raise awareness of adverse changes to the state pension and the negative impacts these may have on our members, particularly women (or, if you’re familiar with the Viz character Millie Tant, “wimmin’ ” as our colleague repeatedly stated at the time).
Motion 4 was from the LGBT conference calling for full equality in workplace pension schemes for WET workers. Same sex partners are entitled to a lesser share of their surviving partners pensions compared to their non-LGBT colleagues. Unsurprisingly this was also carried.
Motion 5 emphasized the importance of supporting the Living Wage as defined by the Living Wage Foundation and not this government’s idea of a living wage.
Motion 6 dealt with mental health in WET workplaces particularly in call centre environments. We agreed to organise a 2017 seminar to highlight this issue.
Motion 8 reminded us of the importance of the Working Time Directive and ensured a high profile is kept on excessive working hours within the water industry. The motion was carried to support awareness and guidance to protect our WET colleagues.
Motion 10 was an interesting motion calling for WET branches to share intelligence about the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index. Interesting because the mover of this motion pointed out that Stonewall doesn’t work with nor even recognise trade unions.
Dave Prentis then addressed conference and highlighted his background in British Waterways negotiations. Nearly half a million jobs have gone in the industries we recruit from. Dave emphasized that we’re a union that adapts to represent ALL members, whether public or private sector. There shouldn’t be a 1st class and 2nd class service.
Other motions included ‘a stronger, growing Passenger Transport Forum’, ‘Negotiating workplace domestic abuse policies’, ‘facility time’, ‘securing adequate funding for flood defences’, ‘the EA and major flooding incidents’ and an emergency motion on the EA’s new payroll system which has resulted in over- and under- payments to staff. This seemed to be an outrageous unforeseen event for the EA; we’ve been dealing with this type of thing for years thanks to the bizarre world of SAP…….