Lucia McKeever, a nursing assistant from Armagh, has today become the first person from Northern Ireland to be elected president of UNISON, the UK’s largest public service union.
Upon her election as president, Lucia said: “I have always been proud to represent the union’s members in Northern Ireland, and being elected president of UNISON is the pinnacle for me as a lifetime trade unionist. I am honoured to be trusted by the union to hold the highest office at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges.”
Lucia, who has been married for 35 years and has six grandchildren, began working as a nursing assistant when she was 18. She has worked for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust for 36 years, helping people who have learning disabilities.
She became actively involved in the trade union movement more than 25 years ago in the fight for regulation and registration for healthcare workers, and has campaigned tirelessly to protect health and social care services in the Southern Trust Area, particularly in Armagh and Dungannon.
Lucia went on to say: “As one of the millions who has suffered years of pay freezes I understand how important the issue of pay is to our members, but pay is just one of many challenges we face. I am looking forward to working closely with our members across the UK who are campaigning tirelessly to protect their local services.
“The next 12 months represents a critical time for our union in the lead up to next year’s general election. This government’s misguided policies of privatisation and deregulation are destroying our public services, and welfare reforms are devastating communities. It is now more important than ever for people to belong to a trade union.”
Lucia, who has been chair of the Armagh Dungannon health branch since UNISON was formed in 1993, has been part of the union’s presidential team for the past two years. She was elected president during the union’s annual conference in Brighton this week and will hold the position for the next year.