‘Our strength comes from you’, president tells conference

Josie Bird salutes UNISON’s Black members for their work in fighting back against increasing racism and intolerance

“This conference is the tip of the iceberg. It does not tell the full story of Black members’ achievements at a time of hardship and real struggle, and why you are such a significant part of our union.”

Opening the second day of the 2020 Black members’ conference in Bournemouth, UNISON’s president Josie Bird spoke of her pride in being part of the union family, and thanked the Black members’ committee for its hard work fighting racism and xenophobia.

She also thanked the committee for supporting disabled, LGBT+ and women members to strengthen the fight against all forms of prejudice.

“Whatever form it takes, I believe we all have to stand up to and challenge the politics of intolerance and hate. As of today, we’ve left the EU and we’re going to need that strength and commitment in the months and years to come.

“Since the referendum, there has been an increase in racist attacks and appalling levels of hostility directed towards black people. EU citizens, refugees and those from migrant backgrounds are facing more and more abuse from people who feel their views have been validated by the current occupants of No10 and the White House.

“Anti-immigration rhetoric has become common in everyday life. And we shall never forget the scandal of the Windrush generation,” continued Ms Bird.

“This is a government that seems certain to inflict more misery on the population – especially when the potential for a hard Brexit remains all too real.”

The president also spoke passionately about the inequalities in the UK – where the six richest people have the same amount of money as the poorest 13 million, and 800,000 people are working on zero-hour contracts.

Pointing out that the UK is the fifth richest nation in the world, she went on to say that “the prime minister may have no regard for working class people, but we shall continue to be your strongest advocate.

“Many challenges lie ahead with a Tory government, which is extremely relaxed about increasing inequality in this country, but we know what we’re up against.

“As a union we are challenging inequality and we are winning – but our strength comes from you, our members. We need a strong union now more than ever as so much more remains to be done.”