Assistant general secretary Christina McAnea thanked the union’s disabled members for all the work they do when she addressed their conference in Brighton his morning, telling them that it iss vital to keep up the work, since the disability pay gap is now at its highest – 15% – since 2013.
“In-work poverty is very real for too many of our members,” she said. “We know there is a clear link between poverty and disability … living with a disability, what it costs you to live your life, are higher.”
Yet the government remains determined to make savings at whatever cost to people.
Ms McAnea cited the impact of public service cuts on those who provide them, especially disabled workers, and emphasised that, since many workers will find themselves disabled during the course of their working lives, fighting for equality in the workplace is vital for everyone.
In a wide-ranging address, Ms McAnea also told delegates that the union is campaigning for there to be a reciprocal agreement between the EU and the UK after Brexit for some continued form of European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
In a year of anniversaries – “150 years of the TUC, 100 years since at least some women got the vote, 70 years of the NHS and 25 years of UNISON” – delegates were reminded how the merger that formed UNISON was not “out of necessity but to make a stronger union”.
In spite of the cuts to public services, UNISON has continued to grow and is now the biggest union in the UK, because it is a “tolerant, caring campaigning union”.
“We defied the naysayers” who thought the merger would be a disaster, she told delegates – and urged them to continue their excellent work.