After over 20 years of leading this union as general secretary, you’d have thought that I’d have seen it all. I couldn’t be surprised any more by our incredible members and the amazing work they do running our public services.
You’d be forgiven for thinking my immense pride at what we achieve together could increase no more. But you’d be wrong.
Obviously COVID-19 and our members’ collective and individual responses have left me feeling even more proud of our union and its members and their hard work than ever before.
And luckily, this time of year gives us plenty of time to shout about their brilliance. We’ve just finished the online Labour conference – Labour Connected – and last week, UNISON was a leading voice at the TUC virtual congress.
At both, I talked about the need for a new deal for public services. How the desire to go back to normal after coronavirus, mustn’t mean a return to the ‘normal’ of pain, austerity, pay freezes and cuts for our members.
That old ‘normal’ for public service workers was unsafe. It was being underappreciated, underpaid and undervalued. There can be no going back to that normal.
The new normal will rebuild all public services, where funding is based on need, where services are run in-house – for the public good, not private greed.
A new normal of safe workplaces and workers treated with dignity and respect, appreciated, paid fairly, and valued.
Never before has the work of public service workers been so visible or so important. And never before has the work of UNISON, their union, our staff and activists, been just as vital.
This is shaping up to be an incredibly important and busy autumn and winter for everyone at UNISON – whether it’s launching our new No Going Back to Normal campaign to put pressure on the government for that new deal for public service workers – or the demand of an immediate pay rise of £2,000 for each NHS worker.
But then there’s also the fantastic legal win for our homecare workers announced last week after a hard four-year battle led by our legal team, outsourcing redundancies at City University, or what’s going on British Gas, plus all the work we are doing across all our service groups to protect our members as they fight to protect us during Coronavirus.
We all know the threats coming this autumn. Because we are already fighting them.
These are indeed unprecedented times. But we are lucky we have our members to lead us through them. And they are lucky to have an active and vital union by their side every step of the way.