Today is Windrush Day, which commemorates the 72nd anniversary of the arrival of Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks. Those who travelled on that ship, their families and countless others have come to our country and made it their home. The Windrush generation and those who followed have made and continue to make an incalculable contribution to our country and our communities, including many working in public services. It is no coincidence that Windrush Day and the birthday of our NHS come so close together in the calendar, as the Windrush generation made such a profound contribution to building our nation’s greatest institution.
Yet on their arrival in the UK, and in the decades since, the Windrush generation and their descendants saw their lives in this country marked by horrific racism. We see the impact of that today – from the evidence that shows the impact of race on COVID-19 death rates to the powerful and justified calls for justice and change from the Black Lives Matter movement. The Windrush generation gave so much, but they haven’t been treated with dignity and respect in return.
So as we commemorate Windrush Day, and thank those who transformed our country and our movement, our thoughts and our support remain with those who are still fighting injustice. The Windrush scandal is a scar on our society, and one whose injustice endures. Of those who have submitted claims for compensation,95% are still yet to receive anything. The pain of having your whole life thrown up in the air has been compounded by the long and painful waiting game of seeking compensation for such terrible treatment.
As always when I think of the impact of the Windrush scandal, I think of UNISON members like Michael Braithwaite – treated with so little compassion and dignity despite a lifetime of dedication to his community. Today our union stands with him and every other UNISON member targeted by the government’s hostile environment – as we will until justice is done. UNISON demands justice for those affected by the Windrush scandal, full implementation of the Windrush “Lessons learned” review and an end to the Hostile Environment, as a minimum. And we fight for a future where dignity and respect are at the foundation of our society, and the way that every single person is treated is guided by that principle.