UNISON’s number one priority is to speak up for the safety of our members who are still working to support our communities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, general secretary Christina McAnea told an online meeting of the union’s national executive council (NEC) today.
In her first report to the NEC since being elected, Ms McAnea said that, in addition to recognised frontline workers, there were many “forgotten essential workers – people who turn up for work every day, who support the public and who are at risk”.
UNISON will press employers and the government to include these groups when planning safety measures and in the vaccine rollout, she said.
Thanking everyone who had voted and campaigned in the recent general secretary election, Ms McAnea said now was the time to come together to stand up for our members.
UNISON is collecting evidence for an inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic. “We are holding this government to account for the impact of COVID-19 experienced by all our members and particularly the disproportionate impact on some groups such as Black people and those in poorer communities. This is not an accident, it’s about systemic discrimination and inequality.”
Many UNISON members were now reporting experiencing mental health issues as a result of their “heartbreaking” experiences during a year of the crisis, and this is having an impact on activists.
“The pandemic is having a massive impact on our activists too – they are supporting members who are dealing with death, illness and very vulnerable people on a daily basis,” Ms McAnea said.
The general secretary’s wide-ranging report to the NEC covered:
- plans for high-profile campaign activity against the public sector pay freeze by UNISON and TUC in the run-up to the Budget;
- making the moral case for access to vaccines among poorer countries worldwide; and
- stepping up the campaign for a national care service centred on decent pay and conditions for care workers, and highlighting the impact of working during the pandemic on the mental health of healthcare workers.
The NEC also:
- agreed plans to move 2021 UNISON conferences online;
- agreed the union’s financial accounts for 2020;
- heard an update on the staff pension scheme;
- observed a minute’s silence for members who have died during the previous months.