Delegates representing UNISON members working in police and justice services are meeting at an interesting time, at the end of party conference season, assistant general secretary Christina McAnea told their conference in Southport this morning.
It’s when “politicians of all parties usually compete to say what they would do to stop crime,” she noted – adding that UNISON members no doubt felt reassured that the Tories are once again calling themselves the party of law and order.
Yet this is a party that, just a week ago, was found to have acted unlawfully in proroguing Parliament.
“But this party of law and order has also been responsible for a 40% cut in PCSO numbers, a 20% cut in other police staff and a 14% reduction of police officer posts – cuts that have led to a rise in serious and violent crime.
“Well I’d hate to see what they would do if they weren’t the party of law and order.
“And if that wasn’t bad enough, just look at the mess and chaos they’ve created in the probation service.”
Congratulating the union’s probation service committee for its campaign against former justice Chris Grayling’s failed privatisation and fragmentation of the service in England and Wales, Ms McAnea said that the union has three “common sense” demands: a reunified service brought back under democratic control, provided by public-service employers; with no compulsory redundancies and national collective bargaining between unions and the new employers.
But she admitted that there were questions over how common sense could prevail “when the country feels so chaotic”.
Yet despite the chaos and nine years of austerity, “UNISON is fighting back and the campaigns and the disputes we’ve been running are making a difference. We’re a union that isn’t afraid to take on difficult cases – however long it takes.”
Looking specifically at campaigns in the police and justice sectors, Ms McAnea said: “There’s been some really hard work done on campaigning for better pay increases in England and Wales and in Scotland.
“I know we’re still out for consultation in England and Wales, but I was particularly pleased to see the underpinning for the lowest paid, because this is still a key priority across UNISON.
“And I make no apology for keeping the aim of ending low pay at the heart of our overall pay campaign.
“We moved over 100,000 low-paid workers above the real living wage with the deals we did last year. And that’s something we should be proud of – because it makes a significant difference to people’s lives.
“Because if unions like ours aren’t fighting for these workers – then who will?”
But on top of pay, she said, conference should be proud of a union “looks outward in this country and across the world.
“And in police and justice, you can see so clearly why it’s important we do that. Because cuts in police and justice not only affect our members jobs, but affect all of our lives and the communities we live in.”
With the near certainty of a general election taking place in the next few months, Ms McAnea finished with a rallying cry.
“We need to get our message out about the importance of investing in public services and the importance of having a say in the future of our country,” she declared.