UNISON members who are EU citizens gathered to share their experiences since June’s referendum on membership of the European Union, and share their concerns about what happens next, at a seminar in the UNISON Centre last month.
Members “are deeply concerned about the xenophobia and anti-migrant sentiment that fuelled the Vote Leave campaign and has continued to grow since,” said UNISON head of strategic organising Greg Thomson.
The EU members’ seminar brought union members and activists from across the range of public services together in London. They hailed from France, Spain, Germany, Poland, Sweden and Bosnia, which took the first steps to joining the EU at September’s summit in Slovakia.
Their discussions will help inform the union’s work to defend its EU members’ right to remain in the UK, while opposing the tide of racial abuse that has arisen since the referendum.
“Listening to our members, it was clear what a rich contribution they make to our public services and, indeed, to our union,” said Mr Thomson.
In turn, they have a clear expectation that their union “should take a lead in rejecting that anti-migrant rhetoric and show that the real threat to our public services comes from the government’s austerity measures,” he added.
“The positivity and the fighting spirit emanating from their discussions will be pivotal in shaping the direction and success of the campaign, as it goes into the regions and branches.”
UNISON has commissioned a booklet from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, outlining members’ legal rights and set up an EU members’ helpline available every Tuesday on 0800 0 857 857.
There is also a dedicated Facebook group for UNISON members who are EU citizens to talk to each other at facebook.com/groups/UNISONEUMembers/. This is a closed group, and members will need to ask to join it.
Mr Thomson urged members who are EU citizens to establish a permanent right to remain by applying to the Home Office.
Find out more at www.gov.uk/settle-in-the-uk
But he stressed: “This is not just about the rights of EU citizens. It’s about the type of country we want to live in.”