Speaking at UNISON’s annual national conference today (Tuesday) in Brighton, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said:
“This year marks 25 years of UNISON. It’s a year to celebrate and to commemorate all the work of those who went before us.
“UNISON was born in an era of the right – facing a Conservative government pandering to the private sector, and producing piece after piece of anti-trade union legislation.
“It was a time where the checks and balances of the political system had given way to the cheques and bonuses of the bankers.
“Millions of people were working, just to scrape together a square meal, ignored by those making millions in the square mile.
“Then, when the crash came and the coalition arrived there were job losses, austerity and 600,000 public service jobs were lost.
“That’s why UNISON research out this week shows government spending cuts have left councils unable to meet the needs of communities, and in some cases are putting the public at risk.
“UNISON as a union is inclusive, tolerant and caring. It gives a voice to the voiceless, and power to the powerless.
“It’s a union that stood with the Hillsborough families, campaigned with the Lawrence family, and was at the heart of the peace movement in Northern Ireland. And now we won’t allow peace in Northern Ireland to be sacrificed by Boris Johnson as he serves his own narrow, selfish Brexit agenda.
“It’s also a union that fights for equal pay, and this year alone 160,000 new members joined – 80% of them women.
“A union that took on the grotesque injustice of employment tribunal fees – and got rid of them. This was a great victory for all workers, where the government was found guilty of breaking domestic and European law, even the Magna Carta itself. As a leading lawyer said, the case will always be referred to by the name of the union that had the courage to fight the case – UNISON.
“Public services are at the very heart of UNISON, that’s why we support a Labour Party committed to ending PFI, outsourcing and privatisation. A party that in government would repeal the Trade Union Act, and bring back Sure Start centres.
“But all this must be done in the first year of a Labour government, not delayed to a second term.
“People might question how all this is going to be paid for. That’s easy – we need to stop paying money to the PFI firms ripping us off and close the tax havens bleeding the country dry.
“Now Theresa May claims she’s got a plan to fund the NHS. But the funding she’s offered just isn’t enough. We’re not taken in by her shoddy rhetoric about Brexit dividends.
“Our message to the Prime Minister is this – properly fund our NHS and public services, and do it now. Or call an election and let the country elect a government that will.”
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