In the fight of our lives

General secretary Dave Prentis has a message for UNISON members and their families, explaining why he will be voting for Labour on 12 December

For our union and for public services, this election is the fight of our lives – and we’ve been giving it our all.

Whether it’s on the streets in marginal seats across the country, talking to our members about the issues at stake, or securing UNISON’s priorities in Labour’s incredible manifesto, I have never known an election where UNISON has played a bigger part.

Now, as we head into the final days of the campaign, a Labour victory is needed more than ever before. Decent wages, better childcare, building more affordable homes and restoring vital local services are what’s needed.

Labour’s commitment to a 5% pay rise for all public service workers next year – and real pay rises every year after that – shows they have listened to our calls to “Pay Up Now”.

Every vote for Labour is another vote for getting your pay back to where it was (in real terms) before the austerity decade – and for investment in public services which all our communities benefit from.

What Labour is offering is what UNISON has fought for – what we have all fought for.

Alongside saving our NHS from Tory privateers who would hand it over to Donald Trump and his American multinational chums, that’s what’s at stake.

Of course, this election will determine our country’s future, but it’s about so much more than Brexit. This election is about the huge issues that are a matter of life and death for millions of people.

And as I travel around the country, I’m in no doubt about the state in which Boris Johnson and his party have left our public services.

The health service is struggling after a decade of austerity, confirming that Tory claims about loving our NHS aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

Decent wages, better childcare, building more affordable homes and restoring vital local services are what’s needed.

Council services have been decimated – hardest hit by a global crisis that started on Wall Street and in Canary Wharf, not in Wakefield or Camden.

And care services, for so long stretched to crisis point, are now actually breaking down across the country with low-paid workers working long hours to support vulnerable people.

All deserve so much better. Fixing the problems our society faces means there’s only one option – electing a Labour government. Because the Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, has the answers to the questions our country faces.

I said in 2017 that Labour’s manifesto could practically have been UNISON’s manifesto. If that was the case then, it’s even more so for the manifesto produced for this election, which reflects the priorities of UNISON’s members – the common sense changes for our country that will end austerity for good, and deliver properly funded, decent public services that work for everyone.

This is a manifesto with UNISON’s priorities at its heart. The campaigns that our members have called for and led are always at the heart of our Labour Link work – and those priorities have been at the heart of the months of work we’ve put into Labour’s groundbreaking manifesto.

I was proud to attend the party’s Clause V meeting to discuss the final text and, along with our Labour Party NEC members, win vital changes to the final text that make it an even better plan for the future of our country.

It is the direct result of months of work from our policy and political teams who worked tirelessly – often late at night –- to make sure every idea we had and every word we wanted was inserted into the draft text.

Elections aren’t won by ideas alone. What’s crucial is the people who are campaigning, day in and day out, for a Labour victory.

Their work set the foundation for this manifesto.

On pay, insourcing and funding for public services.

On our NHS, local government and social care.

On the gender pay gap and childcare.

Helping WASPI women and those suffering due to the hated Universal Credit system.

This manifesto has something for every UNISON member. I’m proud our union played such a critical role in its development and I’m proud to give it my personal endorsement.

Our members campaigned, fought, spoke out in unison – and Labour listened. This is an agenda worth fighting for.

But of course, elections aren’t won by ideas alone. What’s crucial is the people who are campaigning, day in and day out, for a Labour victory.

That’s why – like so many UNISON members – I’ve been getting out on the doorstep and campaigning for public services and for a Labour government.

I’ve been supporting Labour candidates – and UNISON members – from Bambos Charalambous in Enfield Southgate to Laura Smith in Crewe.

From Rosie Duffield in Canterbury to Ruth Smeeth in Stoke.

From Emma Whysall to Carl Greatbatch – across the country I’ve been proud to knock on doors alongside those who represent the best of our party, their communities and our union, and tell voters everywhere I go about the change they have the chance to vote for.

While Boris Johnson may have the money and the media on his side, Labour has something stronger – people. And so many of them are our people.

They are fighting injustice. They are taking on racism. They are opposing privatisation.

And they are resolute in their demands for decent, properly funded public services.

What’s at stake in this election is clear. And so is the choice everyone faces on 12 December.

You can vote for the untrustworthy Tories, for more austerity, for a continuation of a system that has failed public services and failed UNISON members.

Or you can vote for a Labour Party that has taken on UNISON’s issues – your issues – and wants to change our country for the better, starting with properly funded public services and decent wages for public service workers.

All my life I’ve fought for our public services and our members. In this election, we have a chance to put our union’s values into power.

It’s an opportunity we can’t afford to waste.