Saturday, 7 April 2012

Conference Report- Friday

Annual conference started for me at 9.00am on Friday morning- as the Executive met to decide on priority motions to put to Conference, and the Executive’s attitude to all of the other motions.

We discussed two priority motions- one on pensions, agreed at the last Executive, and another on Pay- reflecting the latest threats of local pay. I spoke against an amendment proposed to the pay motion that called for the next pay claim to include compensation for the losses as a result of the pension contribution increase. I didn't think we should be presuming that the further increases will be implemented, nor did I feel that a one-off additional payment would in any way compensate for the increased contribution levels year on year, when the Government has not done a revaluation of the scheme that demonstrates whether they were necessary. However, after debate, it was agreed to include this.

The conference proper opened at 4.00 on Good Friday. Nina Franklin the outgoing President was thanked for her hard and inspiring work in the past year. Julie Lyon-Taylor moved a vote of thanks to Nina- her passionate belief that all human beings should be treated with dignity and respect. She praised Nina’s energy in promoting the movement- whether addressing student demonstrations from the top of a bus, or marching with European trade union allies against the austerity measures.
“Internationalism runs through Nina, as it does through our Union, like Torquay
through a stick of rock”
Marilyn Harrop then took the Chair as the incoming President of the Union, and welcomed the solidarity guests from other trade unions from Britain and International. Mr Kotsifakis of the Greek secondary teachers union gave an inspiring address reflecting on the huge tasks of trade unionists in Greece fighting against cuts. We also heard about the work of Education International, from Australian Teachers’ leader Susan Hopwood.

John Bills presented the annual report of the Teacher Support Network, and showed a video that highlighted the progress since the organisation was founded as the Benevolent and Orphans society- now providing financial support and counselling for thousands of teachers every year. John is standing down as chair of TSN after eight years at the helm, and was thanked by Conference.

The Teachers Assurance and the Teachers Building Society also reported- Teachers Building society reported their pleasure that they had been able to donate and raise money to support the TSN and the Steve Sinnott Foundation. Also, they have NO properties in repossession- how many “high street” lenders can say that ?

The Fred and Anne Jarvis award is made on the first day of every Annual Conference. Fred was General Secretary of the Union during the 1970’s and 80’s. Now well into his 80’s he remains a sharp and compelling speaker. The award this year was made to writer and campaigner Melissa Benn. She was unable to attend today, but will accept it formally at the union’s National Education Conference in the summer at Stoke Rochford. Fred paid tribute to Melissa, and her late mother Caroline, and confessed that when he inaugurated the award a few years ago, he had a secret list in mind of people he hoped would be recipients of the award, and Melissa was high on that list !

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