With the COVID landscape this year as well as the risk of hotspots in Sydney CBD, a decision was made two weeks ago to host the United Services Union ‘mini conference’ in Cootamundra. The mini conference will be on October 22 for executive members, branch presidents and secretaries. This is the first time in the history of the Union, the Conference is not being held in Sydney. Every second year, a mini conference is organised, with a total of 70-80 people heading into Sydney, or an area that would be able to handle a large gathering.

According to USU President Glen McAtear, members were not confident about going to Sydney for the conference, which is why Glen put forth the idea of having the front bench of The Union come to Cootamundra, whilst the rest of the executive, branch presidents and secretaries attend via Zoom video conferencing. This decision means, President of Local Government NSW Linda Scott, EISS CEO Alexander Hutchinson, Local Government Super CEO Phil Stockwell and Secretary of Unions NSW Mark Morey will be in attendance. From USU, President Glen McAtear, General Secretary Graeme Kelly, Vice President Sharon Sewell, Treasurer Ross Crawford, two junior vice presidents and few other members, would be the other attendees at the much more “COVID safe” location.

The Union is very conscious in regard to COVID and no person that is attending will be coming from a COVID hotspot. Around 50-60 other members along with the remaining executive members, will be present on Zoom, they include members from around the state, from Tweed Heads to Albury and out west to Broken Hill. Instead of it traditionally being held at a club room or a union hall, this is the first time in the history of the union, where a council is helping to host a conference.

Cootamundra-Gundagai Mayor Abb McAlister will be present on the day to open the conference, he said visiting members will be well looked after in town. “I think it’s a fantastic idea that we can bring this conference here to Cootamundra, for the economy and for the present times we are in,” Cr McAlister said. “We hope they enjoy their stay here in Coota and we certainly welcome more initiatives like this in future.” During the conference, the union will be reviewing and evaluating the general operation of the union, how things have been going, and what have or have not been working.

The day prior to the Conference, there will be a state executive meeting held from Cootamundra Council Chambers by way of Zoom. USU President and Cootamundra resident Glen McAtear said hosting it at council and in Cootamundra, puts the town on the map, especially in the future when the pandemic is over. “It’s great to know that we are the trailblazers for this and this conference will prove that we can have meetings such as these. We should be looking outside the box for alternative methods of meeting and this could certainly be a way of the future,” he said. “It’s certainly in different and difficult times than we have been used to, and as a union, we are conscious of the safety of our members, executives and staff members. That’s why we decided not to go to Sydney. “With COVID, it brings people into towns like Cootamundra for three days, but once COVID is over, it could bring 80-90 members into this town or other similar towns, and that’s a great possibility.” Christopher Tan