“How on earth can I come to your and be inspirational? Because that’s what you do every day … What you do every single day makes people’s lives better.”
That was the message from UNISON president Gordon McKay this morning, when he addressed the union’s national disabled members’ conference in Brighton.
“I really want to thank you, on behalf of the union, for everything you do.”
Mr McKay went on to speak of how the claims of the Conservative government that austerity is over are “a pile of nonsense”.
Everyone can see this, he told them – apart the government itself.
“This isn’t about stupidity,” he noted, but is “a deliberate choice” not to invest in public services and the working people that need them.
That, the president declared, is why it matters who is in government.
“We have a government where life expectancy has gone into reverse. Austerity is literally taking years off our people’s lives.”
It was “no coincidence” that the poorest local authorities are the ones where funding has been slashed most, yet at the same time, the government’s continued obsession with privatisation continues to cost the taxpayer money – the collapse of Carillion is set to cost taxpayers almost £150 million, while the sell off of privatisation is endangering abuse victims.
But this union is not just fighting back, but leading the fight, stressed Mr McKay.
He reminded delegates that UNISON “broke the public service pay cap, as we promised to do”; that the union took on and defeated the government over tribunal fees, and that it remains the union fighting for care workers.
Introducing the union’s Grovember campaign to boost recruitment, he said that he was going to “ask you to do just that little bit more.” Every person that is recruited helps to build density and therefore helps to make UNISON stronger.
It was entirely apt that, before Mr McKay spoke, tribute had been paid to “one of the great recruiters,” Irene Stacey, who died earlier this year.
After 25 years, UNISON is now the biggest union in the UK – let’s make it bigger and even stronger, was his message.