It’s Friday 31st March 2017, 5 o’clock in the morning as I prepare to travel to Croyde Bay, North Devon to attend my first official appointment as The International Branch Officer at UNISON’s 3 days International Conference … Even though I was a little nervous not known what to expect, I kept an open mind and a sense of wonderment as I started my journey.
After just over 6 hours and 3 trains I arrived at Exeter St. David to complete the last leg of my journey to Croyde Bay by bus, arriving at the hotel an hour and half later … I even found time to stop to say “Hi” to Paddington Bear at Paddington Station, before boarding my connection to Exeter St. David.
On arriving at the hotel I checked in at reception, collected my hotel room key, ID badge and information pack before heading to my room, to get changed and prepare for my first day of the conference at 5:30pm.
At the opening session, my self and nearly 100 other delegates from across the country and a number from other countries were introduced to the committee and staff holding the conference. An opening speech was presented by Paul Glover, The Chair of the NEC International Committee addressing the priorities for 2017 … Touching on issues regarding “Water Action Month” and “Transgender Visibility Day” with photo action for Twitter, before retiring for dinner at 7:30pm.
Saturday 1st April 2017 the second day of the conference, at 9:00 am we listened to presentations from members from “Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) and “Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) regarding their work and the issues effecting the country. UNISON has strong links with unions in south Africa, supporting and working on HIV/AIDS, human rights and democracy issues.
10:00am two presentations were given by members from “People and Planet” and “Electronic Watch” concerning the global supply chain and how ethical procurement can make a difference to people’s lives.
11:30am a member from the “Palestine Solidarity Campaign” (PSC) gave a presentation on the 50 years occupation of Palestine speaking about the first Intifada in 1987, Palestine’s Declaration of Independence in 1988, The Oslo Process in 1993, The Oslo Accords in 1995, the second Intifada in 2000, the Arab Peace Initiative in 2002, the Gaza withdrawal in 2005, the Elections in 2006, the Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9, the Operation Protective Edge in 2014 and the work of the PSC.
2:15pm a presentation was given by a member from “Justice for Colombia” (JFC) regarding it’s campaign against the appalling human rights crisis in Colombia.
4:15pm we listened to presentation via Skype Linkup from the Middle East regarding the human right violations of it’s migrant workers. Due to the sensitive nature of this presentation, I am unable to disclose any further details so to protect the activists present in that location.
Sunday 2nd April the third day of the conference at 9:30am, we listened to presentation given by two members from “Solidarity with People of Turkey” (SPOT), concerning it’s campaign against the violation of human and workers’ rights.
11:00am we began our training session to implement UNISON International Policy in the branch, looking over our action plans generated over the 3 days of the conference, from all the presentations we listened to and the group discussions.
12noon we listened to a closing statement from a member of the NEC International committee. Before boarding our buses laid on for us by the organisers of the conference, to make our train connections.
Over the last 3 days of the conference even thorough a little apprehensive at the beginning, I found my peace surrounded by the beautifully serene backdrop of Croyde Bay, and my newfound International Branch Officer brothers and sisters.
It was an amazing privilege to represent The Open University’s UNISON Branch as its International Branch Officer at the UNISON International Conference 2017. And to be involved in the amazing work that UNISON International does in campaigning for the rights and welfare of workers internationally, promoting & supporting the work of other affiliated organisations and lobbying governments to address many global issues affecting the welfare of people.
During the time spent at the conference, I had privilege of meeting many like-minded people, sharing the same heart-warming passion for the global welfare of others less fortunate, suffering the most appalling working conditions and earning barely enough to support & feed their families … And this is that sense of unity, of us all coming together to seek the common good, that we as a unified body can make a difference and affect change globally.