What would you do if you saw a colleague being ‘dressed down’ by a manager in public, to the extent that they were left in tears?
You’d try to support and comfort them, obviously. But for Ayrshire mental health nurse Gordon McKay in the early 1990s, the reaction was more than that.
“I just thought: ‘You know, I ain’t putting up with any of that. And if I can help people who either want to challenge that sort of behaviour or just need someone to talk to, then yeah, that’s gonna be me’,” he recalls.
It was that incident that put him on the path to becoming a union activist – and now he’s just been elected UNISON president for 2018-19.
And he is clear about the priorities for his presidential year: to help continue making the case for the public services that “hold our society together, and how they do that,” as well playing his part in UNISON’s Pay Up Now! campaign “to get back some of the £18,000 that’s been stolen off our members over the last seven years to pay for the greed and incompetence of other people.”
But he is equally as clear that it’s not just about him as president, because “you don’t achieve anything in the trade union movement by yourself. What you do, is you achieve it with other people.”
Gordon is joined on the presidential team by senior vice president Josie Bird and junior vice president Sian Stockham.
Josie is a local government worker from Newcastle, where she has worked as an administrative officer for the past 17 years. Sian is a support care worker from Abergavenny.