I’m always so proud of what our union stands for and what we can achieve when we stand together. But sometimes there are days when that’s particularly true – and earlier this week I had one of those days.
It started early on a picket line at Whiston Hospital. The strikers – employed by Compass – have a simple demand, to get the same pay and conditions as those they work alongside in our NHS. Their energy, their passion and their unwillingness to give in are truly inspiring. These are the people who keep our NHS – our nation’s greatest achievement – running each day. They clean, they cook and they make sure patients are where they’re meant to be. They embody the incredible values of the NHS and our union, and it’s time that Compass (a company which makes vast profits each year) to pay them the wages they deserve.
My next stop was completely different, but no less inspiring, as I met up with Crewe and Nantwich MP Laura Smith, and knocked on doors in her constituency. Laura is a UNISON member – a former teaching assistant and school cuts campaigner – who won this marginal back in 2017. Now, with a track record of fighting for her community, she’s working round the clock to get re-elected. She’s a great champion for Crewe – our union needs her back in Parliament.
After Crewe, I headed into the West Midlands to meet up with Staffordshire Community Health Assistant Branch Secretary Steve Jones. Steve is one of the finest activists in our union – and passionate about the Labour Party, as Chair of West Midlands Labour Link.
So after our meeting with Steve we headed out on the doors in Newcastle Under Lyme and Stoke, to joint the fight for a Labour government with three MPs who are as proud to be UNISON as they’re proud to be Labour. First up we met up with Carl Greatbatch, a UNISON activist who’s standing in Newcastle Under Lyme. Carl is a tremendous candidate, so warm with those he speaks to, so knowledgeable about his community and the challenges facing our country – and ready to become an MP on day one in December. I know he’ll take our union’s values into Parliament because they are his values too.
There was still time after that to support two more Labour MPs our union and our party need to see re-elected in a couple of weeks – Gareth Snell and Ruth Smeeth. Gareth is already onto his third election in less than three years as an MP – but he’s taken every challenge in his stride, and his constituents know that he’ll always be on their side. Ruth has been a friend since her time as Deputy Director of Hope Not Hate – and her dedication to fighting racism and fascism remains undimmed, despite the relentless stream of hate that comes her way. She’s a brilliant MP – exactly the kind of person you’d want in your corner.
What unites Ruth and Gareth, the Whiston Strikers, Carl, Steve and Laura is that they are willing to put their values – our union’s values – into practice. They are fighting injustice. They are taking on racism. They are opposing privatisation. And they are resolute in their demands for decent, properly funded public services.
There are people who make me so proud of our union – and these are just some of them.