UNISON’s National Young Members’ Weekend took place this year in the historic city of Belfast from 10-12 May. With a range of in-depth workshops, networking opportunities and political education seminars, the weekend was an inspiring and thought-provoking experience. As the Young Members Officer in the Barnardo’s branch, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend this event.
During the weekend we had some amazing speakers including Bianca Todd (Ron Todd Foundation) and Naomi Connor (Alliance for Choice). Both of these women captivated and demanded the room’s attention – they are truly fighting the good fight.
Bianca intrigued the delegation’s attention with her quirky ideas surrounding solidarity within society. Over the weekend she took part in a panel and also held a workshop. Bianca revealed some of the unusual ways she brings society together – from offering her own home to others to disposing of certain free newspapers and moving items in shops to the food bank collection boxes. She came across as a maverick and inspired the room to make small differences in their lives to benefit society as a whole.
As we were in Northern Ireland, Naomi spoke to us about the strict regulations around abortion in the nation. Unfortunately, this was not a happy presentation. Naomi taught us how hundreds of Northern Irish women have to travel to England to receive a safe abortion in a professional NHS environment. Not only does this take time and money to travel, it also makes for a lonely experience. Some of those women will go home and may not speak to anyone regarding their journey due to the stigma or other personal reasons.
The room and I were in agreement – Northern Irish women, or any woman, should not have to leave their country for such a trip. Naomi showed us a powerful music video created using the words of one woman’s experience travelling to England.
For more information on abortions in Northern Ireland, please visit the Alliance for Choice website.
At the moment the Young Members’ Forum and delegation do not have a full decision-making conference. This year at the National Delegates Conference (NDC) in Liverpool, a motion will be put forward to the whole union to vote on whether the Young Members should have a conference every year instead of a training weekend. This motion will hopefully go through and strengthen the voice of Young Members in the union.
On the third day of the weekend, we held a mock conference to prepare for next year. This was a great learning experience for me and the others. The mock conference included each region writing their own motion, a standing orders committee being set up and members being given the opportunity to speak and vote on each motion.
The most important part of this weekend was hearing that young members are not the ‘future of the union’. Young members are the union of now. Young members have the same opportunities to excel, to make a difference in the workplace and to boost the solidarity of all in society.
If you are a young member, or a young person that wants to become a union member – please join today and get in touch with the Young Members’ Officer (Aiden Kremin-Pacey). You can also contact any other committee member or steward.