‘The country owes you’, police and justice conference hears

Assistant general secretary delivers message from Christina McAnea, while also saying that there is money for the government to pay public service workers more

Jon Richards addressing conference

“The country owes you.” That was at the heart of the simple message that assistant general secretary Jon Richards brought from general secretary Christina McAnea to UNISON’s police and justice conference when it opened in Brighton this morning.

Recognising the “incredible work” delegates had done on the frontline during the pandemic – together with the work that activists had done for the union and the union’s members in the same period – he urged them to help prepare for the forthcoming public inquiry into the government’s handling of the crisis.

UNISON would be “playing our role” in the inquiry by calling on activists to send in evidence from members on the impact of the government’s actions and decisions.

Mr Richards noted that members are unhappy with the pay freeze, adding that it was “perverse” for the government to talk of a high-wage, high-skill economy and then hold down pay, when job vacancies are increasing. He said there is a “real danger” that people will choose to move out of working in public services.

Noting that he had been part of a trade union delegation to meet Chancellor Rishi Sunak a couple of weeks ago, he said that he would say in Brighton what he had said then: “There is plenty of money available to increase public sector pay”.

Mr Richards also told conference that Ms McAnea would be pushing ahead with her plans for learning and education in the union, which had been a centrepiece of her general secretary election campaign.