President tells women’s conference: unions make lives better

Gordon McKay urges activists to continue the fight against Conservative policies that knowingly hurt working people

“I have never believed that the handing over of a few votes”, by a coalition government of male Conservatives and Liberals “was what made women’s lives better”, president Gordon McKay told delegates to UNISON’s national women’s conference in the centenary year of the franchise for some women.

Speaking to conference in Bournemouth this afternoon,Mr McKay stressed that he was not actually 100, but rattled off a list of things that have been impossible for women during his lifetime: opening a bank account on their own, buying a home and so many more.

“Working class women trade unionists – that’s what made women’s lives better,” he said, adding that nothing was given, but everything was won by hard work, hand in hand with Labour governments.

There was laughter as he said that Conservatives had only ever introduced one piece of equalities legislation for women – in 1982, under Margaret Thatcher, ending the ability of a landlord to refuse service to a woman buying drinks with her own money in a pub.

More seriously, “this union has led the fightback” against austerity, across the economy and sectors, he told the hall.

“This union is now the biggest union in the UK. But that didn’t easy – that came through hard work.”

Observing that people “now join a trade union when they can trust a trade union,” he added: “The figures show they trust UNISON”.

The president thanked delegates for all the work they have done and urged them to continue building the union and continue leading the fight back against Conservative policies that, he said, were knowingly designed to hit working people, the poor and vulnerable.