Prospect National Conference 2024: Monday, 10 June

10 June 2024

The second full day of business at Prospect’s National Conference 2024 at Birmingham’s International Convention Centre was another busy one for the 300-plus delegates in attendance.

As well more motions for delegates to consider, there were also lunchtime fringe sessions on STEM skills; a new deal for freelancers; burnout and the post-pandemic workplace; and one on the implications of AI on jobs.

One highlight was a panel debate, chaired by Lord Ray Collins, with a line-up of expert speakers, who each explored the question: What will ensure unions have a future in the private sector?

Otherwise, conference business was dominated by the debates and votes. Here’s a summary of the key motions.


The day began with two successful AI motions that had been cut from the first day because of time constraints.

On behalf of the NEC, Satnam Ner, moved a motion calling on Prospect to continue to lobby and campaign for a “just digital transition” ensuring that the reshaping of jobs and workforces works to the benefit of all through the right training and reskilling, commitments to job security and positive employment opportunities.

Satnam Ner addressing conference

Redoubling efforts to unionise workplaces and gain union recognition in IT and technology businesses and giving workers a “right of review” of any new technology being introduced were two of the key elements of the other AI motion that was moved by Sarthak Kumar (Tech Workers Branch).

“We need to take a stand. If the technology we interact with is going to be so prevalent in our lives, then it needs to be developed by us, it needs to be owned by us, it needs to be reviewed by us, and, more importantly, it needs to be regulated by us,” Sarthak told delegates.

See more: Prospect pledges AI campaign including charter for companies


There was a heartfelt and passionate debate on several motions concerning Gaza and Israel.

Phil Sansom (North West Freelance Branch) moved a motion instructing the NEC to call on the International Criminal Court to initiate an investigation into the death of nearly 100 journalists during the present Israel-Gaza conflict.

“We should not remain silent, or turn our heads away, from what is happening to our colleagues in Gaza. Media workers should be allowed to work without fear of themselves, or their families, being targeted,” said Phil.

Prospect’s NEC supported the motion, and it was carried by delegates.

A majority of delegates also voted for a motion that was moved by Sam Dodson (Tech Workers Branch), which called on the NEC to lobby the UK government to use the existing legal framework, the Strategic Export Licensing Criteria, to restrict arms sales to Israel.

However, the North West Freelance Branch’s second motion on Gaza calling for an complete embargo on arms sales to Israel was lost.

Prospect set up a charity collection for War Child, Medical Aid for Palestinians and the Red Cross and invited delegates to give a donation as they left the hall at the end of the session.

Pay and Employment

A Prospect vision of what a good pay system would look like, was the subject of a successful motion from Adriana Gielbert (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs branch).

“The pay system is essentially broken. We believe it’s broken because of an absence of a fair and equitable mechanism where employees are able to increase their earnings as they go through their experience and increase their skillset and become more valuable to the employer,” she told Conference.

“Trade unions are in a unique position to look across multiple organisations and provide a fresh look on a good pay system that is fit for the 21st century. Prospect in particular, as a unique trade union, where members with widely different specialist skills and knowledge are united in solidarity to support each other’s claim to fair pay and career growth.”

Alice Black carried a motion on behalf of the NEC to continue Prospect’s commitment to freelancers and self-employed, and to build a campaign for a new manifesto for those workers, such as:

  • empowering self-employed workers to act collectively to improve their working conditions.
  • Equalise sick pay for the self-employed, as part of wider reforms to financial support during illness.
  • Bring leave and flexibility entitlements for self-employed new parents into line with those enjoyed by employees.
  • Provide income security that reflects the risks faced by the self-employed

Alice Black addressing Conference

Social and Public

Conference passed two motions, one from EDF Energy branch and the other from the Met Office branch, on expressing opposition to, and on campaigning to repeal, restrictive trade union legislation, such as the Minimum Service Levels Act.

Speaking at his first Conference, Harry Mooney (Met Office) said, “that a minimum level service is provided during strike action is an extraordinary attack on the trade union movement and it undermines our ability to defend our members interests.

“Looking at the polls, this well could be an extremely easy motion for the NEC to action if we trust the Labour Party’s promises. However, we must take the law as it is now and ensure any future government, of any colour, repeals.”

A third and similar motion from UKAEA branch, but which also called for further legislation, such as the secondary strike action to be made lawful, was remitted.

Usman Khan (EDF Energy branch) successfully moved a motion committing the NEC to lobby to change the annual income requirement for spouse visas, which has been raised several times in recent years.

“What the government is effectively telling people is, well, it’s tough luck you’re in a relationship with someone foreign,” Usman said.

“Also, hope you don’t get injured, or get time off work sick because your salary might fall below that threshold.”

Usman Khan speaking at Conference

Pernicious threshold changes to Skilled Worker and Family visas were also the subject of a motion from Julia Coneybeer (Efra branch) who said it was one of “many backward-looking and damaging policy changes this nasty government managed to make,” and it was already having an impact on some of members of Efra branch.

Her motion, which was carried, read: “This Conference instructs the NEC to gather data on the scope of members affected, and work with the TUC, and others as appropriate, to support affected members and campaign to have this damaging policy overturned.”

David Hanmer (EDF Energy) successfully moved a motion calling on the NEC to campaign for a humane asylum system, which includes lifting the ban on asylum seekers being able to seek work to support themselves.

Another first-time speaker at Conference, David called Rishi Sunak’s stop the boats and Rwanda policy a sham and said, “A humane asylum system also requires that you invest in processing people and the government has systematically not been able to do that. People have been held in camps and not been processed when they should have done, and that’s probably the worst possible able outcome.”

Sue Ferns, for the NEC, also spoke in support of the motion and it was carried by delegates.

Campaigning for the Health and Safety Executive to become a Non-Ministerial Department, freeing it from political oversight and enhancing its independence was a successful motion moved by Sarah Pearce (HSE branch).

“We are an important regulator who need to be free to recruit and pay our workforce properly and fairly, and to direct the resource that we have where it is truly needed rather than to just produce numbers that tick a box for a minister,” she said.

Alan Vance (Met Office) called in his motion for the NEC to resist any moves threatening to undermine the independence of the civil service. The motion was supported by the NEC and was carried.

Chris Roberts (Education and Children’s Services Group), another first-time speaker, told Conference:

“A good education enables all our children to flourish and underpins the success of all the sectors that Prospect represents.

“However, our schools are facing an unprecedented challenge. Currently one in five children are now persistently absent from school, which will impact on their future academic outcomes; there’s rising demand for special educational needs funding that is being cut; and children on free school meals are falling further behind.

“Everyone who works in education is committed to providing children with the best possible start in life, however, the current situation is at such a scale where our future prosperity as a country is at risk.”

Delegates passed his motion on protecting schools, which called for a campaign to address the rising workload in the education and children’s services workforce, and to lobby for schools to have access to well-resourced support services and expert advice to improve children’s educational outcomes.

Addressing funding cuts for arts, culture and heritage was the subject of a successful motion from Richard Wilson (Scottish Live Events).

“Numerous Studies have shown that engagement with the arts enriches our Lives and enhances our communities. However, recent cuts in national and local funding for cultural programs and institutions have threatened the viability and accessibility of this vital sector,” he said.

Conference carried his motion, which was supported by the NEC, to lobby the government and policy makers to recognise the significant social and economic benefits of the arts, culture and heritage, and prioritise adequate funding to sustain and expand cultural programmes and institutions.

Speaking on his motion to improve regulation to ensure sustainable development and protect and enhance social, environmental, and economic prosperity, Jon Hollis (Environment Agency) said,

“Good regulation is a principle of our society we all rely on. Every day it protects us from pollution and a range of harms. We really notice when it is absent, even though some businesses may find it a burden.

“Cuts in government funding for statutory regulation has happened for more than a decade. These cuts have been very deep, both in terms of resources and people to deliver that regulation. We have also seen much-reduced compliance, just look at the sewage in our rivers and on our beaches.”

Conference passed the motion and instructed the NEC to campaign for increased investment in regulatory infrastructure, including adequate staffing, training, and technological resources, to enable regulators to work effectively, provide advice, and properly enforce regulations.

A motion from the Retired Members Group calling for the renationalisation of English water companies was opposed by the NEC, on the grounds that it was outside the scope of the union. However, a compromise was reached when the UK IPO branch suggested remittal, and delegates agreed.