UNISON Voice: East Midlands Gas Newsletter Jan 2023


In this update the Branch sets out two reports for your information – we hope that you find them of interest.

UNISON Energy Branch Seminar 2022 – East Midlands (Southern Branch ) Attendance Report

The seminar commenced on late Friday afternoon with introduction by Lindsay McNaught, which was warm and welcoming for all who had made it there on time. Guest speaker Chi Onwurah -Labour MP for Energy had spoken about where Labour stands with the Energy markets and her focus been largely on high energy costs and what Labour Party would do to get grips with energy crises, if only there was to be a General Election.

Following up a keynote address by Jon Richards – UNISON Assistant General Secretary. From our perspective it was good to hear on Jon touch on some very important take from UNISON on how UNISON has kept on track with our Energy membership and how the support for the membership will be supported by the sector groups. A further insight into the markets and future developments were also mentioned to indicate much more needs to be done collectively.

Second day began with keynote speaker Rachel Glavin from EDF Energy who gave a very interesting insight into the role Nuclear Power generate electricity in Britain. As there is so much emphasis on clean green energy and the targets of Carbon footprint Rachel’s presentation provided very important facts around the role nuclear energy has played to date and how it is expected to grow.

Of course, there is still a lot of negativity about nuclear energy and as such progress is slow due to political, local push backs and safety. This was one of the most interesting presentations appreciated by all of us attending.

Future energy scenarios and planning was presented by James Whitford from National Grid and highlighted the energy needs. This was an intense and very detailed insight into role of National Grid and it was appreciated by those who managed to get their heads around the facts and status quote.

The role of the renewables in the UK an Energy mix was presented by another guest speaker Melanie Onn from Renewables UK. Again some great detailed insight into where we are with all the different energy mix and what the challenges are today and for tomorrow.

Matt Lay our National Officer presented Energy developments on a month to month covering the last year. Many found it very interesting and have to say it was very well received. Mat emphasized the slides were available for anyone who need it to help with growing our memberships from the conversation aspects.

There were three workshops which were a great for “getting stuck in”. These were Introducing Merlin by Carolyne Petrie – UNISON RMS Operations, also, taking cases forward by Ed Bratt and making the most of bargaining support by Kevin Russell – UNISON National Officer , Bargaining Support Group.

The seminar covered the need for building young members in energy  a discussion with Josephine Grahl – UNISON young members’ officer.

The seminar closed with open forum and questions and answers. There was a lot to take in and certainly most appreciated by all the attendees from all the energy groups who were at the seminar.

Retired Members Conference 2022

Our former colleague and Lead Representative in British Gas at Spinneyside John Dewsbury  attended the Retired Members’ Conference, held on 18/19 October 2022 at Telford on behalf of the branch.

It was nice to get back to a “real” conference after 2 years of on-line ones, although numbers in the hall still appeared slightly down on pre-COVID years.

UNISON Retired members now number nearly 170,000, larger than some of the Regions. Our branch voting strength was 286, down from 308 in 2019 and 313 in 2018 so we need to try and retain any leavers or redundant staff of retirement age.

The first day, Tuesday 19th, consisted of the Panel debate on “the cost-of-living crisis and older people” followed by the East Midlands Regional meeting as well as caucus meetings. Myself, along with many others I spoke to feel we would like to get started on the motions on Tuesday afternoon as again, speaking time was cut on the Wednesday afternoon session to enable us to get through the full agenda.

There were 31 motions on the agenda, although some of these were composited or dealt with as a group debate. Some of the 31 were minor or would not be of interest to working members so I will detail a few of the motions below, list some of the others, and if anyone would like to see the full order of business then I am happy to get this to you.

Obviously, the cost-of-living crisis and threats to pensions and pensioner benefits provided many of the motions. We started with a group debate covering 3 of the motions:

– “Heat or Eat”

– “The cost-of-living crisis and its impact on older people”

– “the governments approach to the energy crisis”

This was carried with the National Retired Members’ Committee (NRMC) called on to lobby MP’s, raise awareness, and to work with the NEC and other Retired Organisations to oppose any attempt to treat pensioners less favourably than others.

Other motions included :

Triple Lock – To ensure the lock will be applied in future, it is having been broken last year, and to legislate to ensure that the inflation determined in future will be based on RPI rather than CPI.

The urgent need for reform and increased investment in social care – A recurring motion, unfortunately, as matters are still not being addressed satisfactorily. Conference called for continuing campaigns for improvements and increased investment in social care.

Threats to free prescriptions – The Government is still considering raising the qualifying age for free prescriptions from 60 to 66 in line with the increasing state pension age despite many 60 plus people either being retired or on reduced hours. Conference called on NRMC to work with NEC and lobby MPs to oppose this.

Card-only transactions and access to cash – During the pandemic, many organisations moved to introduce card-only transactions, which was understandable, to reduce the risk of infection. Many have retained this practice causing difficulties for older people on limited incomes who use cash to control their budget. Conference called on NRMC to work with organisations such as Age Concern and others to campaign for access to, and universal use of cash.

Other motions included :

  • NHS Privatisation by stealth
  • UK State pension
  • Poverty in older people
  • More support for Retired Members activity
  • Retired Members representation on the NEC
  • A commissioner for older people in England
  • Lack of coverage in “U” magazine of retired issues