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Of The Moment, For The Moment

Organising conferences is like throwing a party.  Will people come, will everyone get on.  Will it be the highlight of their week/month/year or a big disappointment?  Without offering hostages to fortune, I have a good feeling about what we’re going to do next week.

We could not have known when we put together the agenda the extent to which this event is both of the moment and for the moment.

Brexit dominates the news. But in the politicking and (near) panic, what focus is there on working people and the organisations that represent and defend them?  Are we ready? Can we be ready? What do we need to do to ensure we have the influence and capacity to establish a fair Brexit for our members? 

So our line-up of speakers on this is unrivalled – Kier Starmer, Frances O’Grady, Vince Cable for the Lib Dems, Neil Gray for the SNP, and Tony Travers of the LSE.  The format will be much more “Question Time” than soapbox so email me your questions for the panel. This is one debate not to miss.

And of course recent Brexit events have added energy and impetus to the devolution debate.  But for trade unionists, the “devo” train left the platform some time ago, with increased powers for directly elected mayors and the “DevoManc” model seemingly unstoppable. 

What does this mean for us and our members?  Is it a question of delegating responsibility without power, or are there new opportunities for unions to recruit, organise, influence?  Our key speaker in this session will be Amy Lame, London’s “Night Czar” and someone who lights up the room with her analysis and comment.  Did I say I was looking forward to her contribution?  No? – Well, you probably guessed that.

Our curtain-raiser will address the central and unavoidable challenge for unions in 2017:  In the future world of work, how do we maintain and extend our role.  This future  contains  many surprises (sneak preview – internet shopping will not kill the retail sector, which will actually see a growth  in employment), and Unions 21 director Becky Wright  will share these before handing over  to what promises to be  titanic debate  between the GMB’s Tim Roache,  and Philip Blond of Res Publica. 

We also have Nick Anstead from the LSE unveiling the results of his research work into what unions need to do to be digitally successful.  We have masses of data but how can we make sense of it and use it to best effect?  The findings will surprise, delight and dismay you (because there is so much untapped resource that we should be using!). 

Inter-twined in amongst all this will be a high level of interactivity.  We need and want feedback, ideas and comment from conference delegates on our work to date and priorities going forward.  We hope too that some snazzy new technology will be available for a hands-on try-out - but that is still to be confirmed.

The bottom line is that this is all about influence and capacity.  If you are working for, interested in, affected by or committed to the trade union movement, the conference is absolutely for you.  There are still a few places available.  Details here. This is going to be good. I look forward to seeing you there.