It is great to be in Bournemouth today for our union’s health conference.
It’s a special event for me – the first conference I addressed when I first became General Secretary and after the NHS saved my life. It’s where the two organisations that have defined my life – UNISON and the NHS – come together. The values of both are intertwined and mean so much to me, and to our union.
A national service, open to all, publicly-owned and publicly run – our NHS is our movement’s greatest achievement.
That’s why today I paid special tribute to our members at the forefront of the fight against subsidiary companies (so-called “subcos”) – in Leeds, Leicester, Mid-Yorkshire, Tees, Esk and Wear, Rotherham and Wigan, Wrightington and Leigh. Where we fight against privatisation, our union wins. Keeping the NHS public, and keeping NHS workers in the NHS, is critical for our union. That’s why we stand with workers in private companies fighting for the NHS wages they deserve.
And that’s why this morning I reiterated our union’s clear position on privatisation – total opposition, and the expectation that the next Labour government will bring every public service back in house as a day one commitment. No ifs, no buts, no delays and no weasel words.
For those of us who demand change in our country, a general election and that radical, reforming Labour government can’t come soon enough. But until we get that, our union won’t stand still – we’ll stand up and fight. Whether that’s against the hard-right Tory brexiteers who want to scrap the Good Friday Agreement, or the street thugs who seek to divide our communities, our union will oppose the rise of hatred, bigotry and division that threatens to divide our communities.
Our union, the union we have built together, is perfectly placed to lead and win that fight. And I know that our incredible health activists, at this conference and around the country, will be at the forefront of that.