The general secretary’s particular focus was on social care – one of a number of “glaring policy issues” that “matter not just to our retired members but to all members”.
She said: “We know that many of us will depend on social care at some point in our lives or will have family members or loved ones who need it.
“And of course, we have 160,000 UNISON members working in social care.”
Ms McAnea pointed out that the fragility of the social care system was laid bare by the pandemic, and today, “it’s in a worse state than ever.
“The NHS will never be resilient unless the care system is thoroughly transformed.
“That’s why we launched a campaign for a national care service. A care service with consistent standards of care and fair pay and conditions for the workforce.”
It would be a service that would put “pride into care, improve the experiences of those who need it, allow their family members to stay in their careers, and put more money into the pockets of a predominantly female workforce.
“We’ve made having a national care service in every part of the UK one of our key demands at the next general election.
“You’ll hear politicians say: ‘It’s too expensive’, ‘Who will pay for it?’”
But as Ms McAnea told conference: “We’ve already paid for it. You and our members still working pay their taxes.
“If politicians are serious about fixing the economy, that’s what they should focus on.
“Because we know that investing in our public services is a way to grow the economy.”
The general secretary also spoke about UNISON’s Year of Black Workers and how, on the seventy-fifth anniversary of Windrush docking at Tilbury in Essex, the union remembered the “pivotal role” those immigrants had on “the birth of our NHS” as so many of them went to work in the new health service.
“But look at how this government treats migrant workers now,” she added. “Demonising them and ignoring the contribution they make to our country and ignoring the impact they have on public services.
“As we enter a general election year, remember how the Tories have been treating us. Remember how they’ve been treating our families and our friends.
“In UNISON, we will champion your rights, the rights of all working people, and for the right for everyone to have a decent, secure, and fulfilling retirement.”