We will fight these battles together – and we’ll win

It was a pleasure to address UNISON’s national women’s conference last week – even more so during Heart Unions week. There could be no better place to be when thinking about the crucial work that ordinary trade union members do.

And no better place to discuss the dreadful Trade Union Bill.

Whether it’s those who might become distanced from their union by this ridiculous bill, or those whose union membership gave them vital support in ending abusive relationships, it’s ordinary women trade union members who will face much of the worst this bill has to offer.

Women are hardest hit by the government’s austerity agenda too. I know that access to justice is a particular concern. Restrictions made to the legal aid scheme again fall hardest on women who are trying to leave abusive relationships – often forcing women to have to represent themselves in court.

And in the workplace, sex discrimination claims have fallen by 83%, not because there’s been a huge decline in such discrimination, but because of the introduction of employment tribunal fees.

Understandably many of the UNISON members I speak to are scared, concerned or just plain appalled by this assault on women. But I’m determined that no bill, cut or law will ever stop UNISON fighting for our members.

And although these are difficult times, it’s important to remember that together we have achieved so much.
Before UNISON, the man who cleaned graffiti from the school walls, was paid more than the woman who cleaned the canteen.

We won that fight.

Before UNISON, there was inequality in holiday leave, sick pay, training opportunities, and flexible working.

We won those fights too.

And today we fight on, over exploitative zero hours contracts, 15 minute care appointments, pay cuts and pay freezes – because there will never be true equality in the workplace until there is equality in society.

We have made great strides forward – but there are so many battles left to fight, and so many people who need us to win those battles.

We will fight them together. And like so many times before, we’ll win.