25 years ago, public service workers came together to form UNISON. Many people said that a public service union was the right idea, but at the wrong time. Others said that NUPE, COHSE and NALGO were too different and that bringing them together was doomed to fail.
A quarter of a century on, 1.3 million UNISON members like you know how wrong the naysayers were, how much we have to celebrate together and how wrong it is to ever count out UNISON members like you. As the people who heal us, educate us, keep us safe and ensure that we receive care, support and vital services every single day, UNISON people are special people, and the union we have built together is a special union.
Our birthday is a great opportunity to remember the values of our special union which have guided us throughout – inclusivity, tolerance and caring. A union led by members and where everything that happens starts and ends with your lives and your experiences. That’s why we’re not just the biggest union, we’re also the best.
And we have so much to be proud of.
Your union stood by the Hillsborough families in their fight for justice, and continues to do so today. We campaigned with the Lawrence family – and made Doreen and Neville part of our UNISON family – as they fought for the justice denied to their son Stephen.
Your union was at the heart of the peace movement in Northern Ireland – and our union will fight on for the Good Friday agreement against those who would trash it.
Your union, pioneering and ground-breaking, was the first union to advertise on TV and radio and the first to have our own website. We were the union that took the first stress at work claim and – through our Blue Light campaign – we’ve continued to put mental health at work on the agenda.
Without your union, there would never have been a National Minimum Wage – benefitting millions by creating a legal floor for pay. Yet we know that floor was set too low, so it’s your union which fights for a living wage of at least £10 for every single worker. Your union – aiming to make poverty pay a thing of the past in our public services.
Likewise on equal pay. Your union took almost 50,000 individual equal pay claims and fought to end sexist, racist and discriminatory pay policies. A union of more than a million women, fighting for fairness and equality. That’s why your union is the only union which has always guaranteed that women hold the majority of the positions in our democratic structures at every level.
Your union – the union that took on the government over the grotesque injustice of employment tribunal fees, and won. That wasn’t just a victory for UNISON members like you, it was a victory for anyone who’s been treated unfairly at work, giving them a chance to stand up for their rights.
Your union took on the BNP and beat them. Your union challenges the extremism and hate of UKIP. And your union always stands up against racism, Islamophobia and anti-semitism in our union and our society – because that fight has always been part of us, deep within our DNA.
1.3 million members, calling out together for fairness and decency. When we are together and united, our union is so powerful. We use that collective strength to fight for every single one of our members, we can shape public services in the image of those who provide and protect them – UNISON members like you.
All of this and so much more should be an immense source of pride to all UNISON activists, because these are your campaigns, your energies and your victories.
In the years ahead, we must continue to work together, united by a shared purpose to build that better union – not of a million members but millions of members. A union that always goes the extra mile. A union that is always working towards our next milestone. A union that cares about every single member.
Happy birthday UNISON – here’s to decades more achievements to come, by and for public service workers.