General secretary Dave Prentis gave his opening address to the union’s health conference in Brighton today announcing: “I owe a personal debt of gratitude to the NHS. Like many of you, it saved my life.”
But he asked: “What keeps us fighting? What binds us together? Our belief in our union and in our national health service.”
The union had many reasons to be proud, he continued, reminding delegates that only last week the union and its members won a “momentous” victory in the fight to protect unions against the government’s Trade Union Bill. “Because of the work done across the country, we won.”
The bill, he said, challenged all that unions stand far, and aimed to go further than “Thatcher or Tebbit ever dreamed of.” The union had now won an amendment meaning that unions would be able to continue to collect subscriptions from members via check-off.
He urged delegates to continue to campaign on the issue with the aim of protecting facility time.
The union is campaigning on all fronts, he said. On the junior doctors’ struggle with Jeremy Hunt, Mr Prentis told delegates: “We stand shoulder to shoulder with the junior doctors.”
And on UNISON members’ concerns about unsocial hours, he vowed: “If you come for our social hours payments, we will fight back.”
On ambulance staff he said: “The trust of our ambulance staff has been betrayed.”
He praised ambulance workers, “the people who care for us from car crashes to collapses,” and condemned Jeremy Hunt’s pay policies that were demanding “2016 paramedic skills with 2004 paramedic pay.
“Our union is saying enough is enough,” he continued, as he announced that the union would be launching our consultative procedures to determine whether our paramedic staff believe we should move to industrial action.
His message for Mr Hunt was clear: “deliver on your promises, otherwise we’ll be joining the junior doctors on the picket lines.”
He summed up with a reiteration of his personal beliefs: “That the humblest worker is a human being who matters just a much as their boss.”