President says it’s been tough, but we’ve achieved so much

Wendy Nichols opens national delegate conference, reminding delegates that hard work has had a massive effect over the last year

“It’s been an absolute pleasure” – that was how president Wendy Nichols described the 12 months of her term, as she opened UNISON’s annual national delegate conference in Brighton this morning.

Just some of her highlights from her year as president included trips to conferences in Ireland, Canada and Austria.

She noted that conference was a chance to “celebrate the achievements over the past year – and to plot the course ahead.”

But, she said, “this has been a tough year for us all – but perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise for us any more”.

Those at the bottom are still seeing their incomes cut, while those at the top see their incomes soar as taxes are cut, she noted.

More public service job cuts are planned, and pay remains stagnant for those providing vital services, “as if we’re in some way responsible for the pathetic performance of the UK economy over the past six years”.

The president described the government’s Trade Union Act as “rot”, but reminded the hall that the union’s hard work has resulted in huge changes to the original plans – changes that take a great deal of destructive heat out of the legislation.

Ms Nichols took the time to tell delegates about the Gambia Bijilo School Project, which has been her presidential charity over the last year – and ask them to make one last push to support it.

She also described how she had been a member of the selection committee that had seen murdered MP Jo Cox launch on her all-too-short parliamentary career.

“A woman with true Yorkshire grit,” she said with emotion.

In conclusion, Ms Nichols thanked all those who had helped her during the year and said that, while life was difficult for the union, it had also been a good year.