Announcing a significant escalation of the NHS pay dispute today (Friday), UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea told delegates in Bournemouth attending the union’s annual women’s conference:
“Every ambulance trust in England and Northern Ireland, bar one, is ready to take action in the next few weeks, in the fight for decent pay and the future of the NHS.
“The Westminster government needs to take stock. It must take a serious look at the damage and disruption it’s causing to the NHS, the public and staff.
“My message remains the same. Talk to unions. There is still time. Only genuine talks, about pay for this year can resolve the dispute.
“For years we’ve warned successive governments of the urgent need for more investment, planning and change in public services. But they ignored the warnings.
“Across all public services, the cost-of-living crisis is forcing people to leave jobs they love – because they can get more money working in a supermarket or Amazon warehouse.
“I feel privileged to lead a union of people doing such important jobs. Every time I’m interviewed – or given the chance to make the case for public servants deserve better pay, my job is made easier by the stories I’m told by the workers UNISON represents.
“Despite the upheaval, and the impact on the public, polls show there’s huge support for the action UNISON’s taking. People aren’t taken in by the government’s propaganda. They understand the action is to secure a safer and better future for everyone.
“In critical sectors, striking workers are still keeping people safe. I’ve been out on the road visiting picket lines and at every single one, I saw staff leaving to respond to emergencies.
“It might be the strikes that capture attention, but it’s the work below the water line that makes a huge difference to workers’ lives.
“Right wing media and Tory politicians like to use the language of the 1970s when attacking us. They talk disparagingly about ‘union barons holding the country to ransom’.
“Yet again they’re showing just how out of touch they are. It’s women fronting so many of the current disputes and negotiations.”
Notes to editors:
– UNISON National Women’s Conference is taking place from Thursday 16 to Saturday 18 February at Bournemouth International Centre.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.