Doctors in Unite 2022 AGM

We held our AGM on 6th February 2022. Our Chair Jackie Applebee, referenced the amount of work that had taken place over the last year in weekly meetings responding to Covid issues. This had resulted in a number of position statements, campaigning, support and information sharing. Going forward meetings will be fortnightly: a Branch Meeting on the first Sunday of the month  10am – 11am, and a topic meeting on the 3rd Sunday of the month.

There was a powerful presentation from Ebrima Sonko, the Unite Rep at the Royal London Hospital, on the Current Barts Health Workers strike against working terms and conditions under Serco, with the demand to be taken back into the NHS on Agenda for Change terms. An appeal was made for contribution to the Strike Fund.

Motions were passed against the Silvertown Tunnel proposal in East London, in favour of free public transport, condemning the failures of the Government’s Covid response, and on the need for closure of the Hassockfield Detention Centre as part of humane treatment of Asylum Seekers.

Open speaker meeting

The speakers Emma Radcliffe, Geraint Davies and John Puntis spoke eloquently to link the climate emergency to the failure to manage air pollution risks and the failures of the UK Covid response, including the poor preparedness of the NHS and the dangers of the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill.

There were concrete suggestions of ways of moving forward including climate jobs campaigning, green workplaces changes, nonviolent direct action, air quality campaigning, carbon border taxes, exposure of bogus “offsetting”schemes, the politics of reducing the power of profit hungry globalised business, deprescribing (stopping unhelpful medications and starting fewer), pay campaigns, exposing culpable politicians, ventilating schools and other workplaces, publicly owned and accountable and comprehensive and free transport system, and building a fit for purpose health system.

The following resolutions were passed:

  1. Resolution on the importance of air quality, both indoors and out

This AGM expresses it gratitude to all NHS, social care and front line workers for their selfless dedication during the Covid-19 pandemic. We express our disgust as the pay offer that has been made our public service workers.

This AGM condemns the massive failures of the UK government in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic including its failure to address the inequalities in our society which increased the vulnerabilities of many individuals and groups.

This AGM recognised that Covid 19 is an airborne disease. We are concerned at the lack of awareness of and action on this elementary fact.

We welcome the DiU’s campaign on this issue including

  • DiU Council’s work within Unite the Union and the broader trade union movement
  • Its correspondence with the main English Royal Colleges seeking that they should be more proactive on this matter
  • The meeting with the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution, Geraint Davies MP

With this in mind, this AGM urges Council to pursue the following campaign & action points:

  • Call for the greater integration of the campaigns for an improved quality of indoor and outdoor air.
  • Explore joint statement by air pollution groups and those calling for clean air in workplaces , schools and other communal public spaces.
  • All our public representatives should lead by example through wearing FFP2/3 masks – again would be newsworthy if the all Labour MPs did so and the LP issued a statement about it.  It would help raise awareness of the need for masks which provide respiratory protection.
  • The provision of free appropriate face masks should be available to all who are at risk.
  • MPs with trade union agreements should jointly work to link outdoor, indoor and personal remediation measures to address poor air quality.
  • Members of parliament and devolved administrations and local government should work to ensure real time monitoring of air quality in communal and commercial public spaces.
  • MPs, trade unions and third sector groups should jointly campaign to link commercial and private accommodating with public health measures such as green building practices, provision of sprinklers and air quality monitoring. Unite, which has a large presence in construction, could play an especially important role here.

2. Motion on the detention centre at Hassockfield

Doctors in Unite note:

That a new immigration removal centre able to house up to 84 women has opened at Hassockfield, now renamed Derwentside in County Durham.

That the site that is intended to be used is the site of the Medomsley young offender’s detention centre where historic cases of abuse took place.

That COVID 19 substantially reduced the use of immigration detention in the UK. Currently only 7 women are imprisoned at the site. If the Nationality and Borders Bill is passed this number could increase dramatically.

That conditions in detention centres are inhumane and that the people detained there are harmed physically, mentally and emotionally.

That the recently published report ‘Action Access’ the first Alternative to Detention Pilot in the UK, jointly commissioned by UNHCR and Ministry of Justice, concluded that community-based schemes lead to better welfare, both physical and mental for the detainees and lessened expenditure for the taxpayer.

That the UK is one of the only countries in the world where those who have been unable to regularise their immigration status can be detained indefinitely.

That UNITE the union are involved in numerous disputes with the contractor responsible for running the centre, Mitie.

Doctors in Unite believe:

That all those made vulnerable by the UK’s immigration policies need our solidarity. 

That the UK’s current borders and immigration policies are racist and reinforce racialisation, impoverishment and a broader toxic political and public culture.

That we oppose the UK’s current and planned border and immigration policies, particularly their embedding and enactment in higher education and other public institutions.

That the trade union movement should be a key actor in solidarity with all those made vulnerable by border and immigration regimes.

That we oppose the opening of the Hassockfield/Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre for Women.

Doctors in Unite ask UNITE the Union to:

To promote all events and petitions associated with campaigns against the opening of the detention centre using social media and other member communications.


To write to local MPs raising our opposition.

To seek to raise the issue and gather support for the campaign through regional and national TUC structures.

References

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/derwentside-immigration-removal-centre-durham-b1981969.html

https://www.durham.police.uk/Advice-Centre/Personal-safety/Operation-Seabrook-Medomsley-Detention-Centre.aspx

https://www.unhcr.org/61e1709b4

https://www.unitetheunion.org/search/?searchTerm=mitie

3. STOP THE SILVERTOWN TUNNEL DAY OF ACTION SATURDAY 26 FEB

This branch notes:

a) There is a climate emergency that requires urgent action.

b) That transport is a leading cause of UK carbon emissions.

c) The Mayor of London has proposed traffic reduction targets to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

d) These targets are unobtainable is the Silvertown Tunnel, currently the largest new road construction in the UK, goes ahead.

This branch/region/committee believes trade unions have an important part to play in challenging a project which will only increase private road traffic.

This branch/region/committee resolves:

To raise awareness of the issue amongst members.

To send a letter demanding the Mayor of London ‘pause and review’ the Silvertown tunnel project immediately’.

To support the Stop the Silvertown Day of Action on Feb 26th

To join the Stop the Silvertown Tunnel Coalition campaign.

4. Comprehensive, free public transport system

This conference believes that global warming is the biggest threat to humanity and that only radical action will prevent irreversible climate change.

Road travel accounts for three quarters of transport emissions and most of this comes from passenger cars.   https://ourworldindata.org/co2-emissions-from-transport

  • This branch understands that many people have no option but to drive due to lack of a comprehensive public transport infrastructure, while public transport that does exist is often prohibitively expensive.

Doctors in Unite call for a comprehensive, reliable and frequent system of sustainable public transport which serves even the most remote locations.

  • Furthermore, we call for public transport to be free. The UK is a rich country, this is affordable.

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