Conference hails striking members

General secretary Christina McAnea called UNISON strikers from the last year forward to rapturous applause from the floor

Images: Marcus Rose

The final day of UNISON’s national delegate conference saw delegates rise to celebrate all those members who had been out on strike during the last year.

General secretary Christina McAnea called the strikers forward to rapturous applause from the floor, with representatives from each of UNISON’s 12 regions:

  • Eastern: Bedfordshire Hospital and Colchester City Council
  • East Midlands: Ashfield Academy, University Hospitals of Leicester and Northampton General Hospital
  • London: NSL workers in Camden and Barnet mental health social workers
  • Northern: North and South Tees NHS
  • Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland health and social care and the Northern Ireland education sector
  • North West: Wirral HCAs, Mid-Cheshire HCAs and Warrington HCAs
  • Scotland: Glasgow University, Scottish schools and Scotland further education
  • South East: Brighton health & social care and Isle of Wight ISS
  • South West: Wiltshire health & social care, Livability, Sodexo, North Devon Hospital and University Hospitals Plymouth
  • West Midlands: University of Birmingham and Mitie in Dudley
  • Cymru/Wales: Welsh Ambulance Service
  • Yorkshire & Humberside: Kirklees College, Glendale Grounds Maintenance, Barnsley College

Conference also went live to a picket line where Barnet mental health social workers were taking their 66th day of action.

Paying tribute to the strikers, Ms McAnea said: “This is a fantastic demonstration of the brave and courageous members in every region and nation of this union who have taken part in disputes against their employers on pay, defending services, jobs and terms and conditions.”

Organising and protecting the right to strike

Conference business also turned to organising and the right to strike with three motions on those topics.

The first highlighted the successes of the union’s Organising to Win campaign and called on the NEC to continue to implement it with a renewed focus.

Moving composite A, Andrea Egan of the NEC said: “We’ve been the biggest trade union for a number of years, and now we’re the strongest.

“Conference, we are on the march, and we need to be taking all of our members with us.”

Emma Proctor of the East Midlands (pictured above) then followed, saying: “Our union boasts a proud history of tirelessly campaigning for the rights and wellbeing of public service workers.

“But as the landscape in which we organise evolves, so too must our strategy and approach, to ensure we can effectively serve our members. This composite is a testament to strengthening our union and amplifying our collective voice.

“It’s not just a tactical approach, it’s the very cornerstone of our union’s ability to represent, empower and enhance the lives of public sector workers and their families.”

The next motion highlighted the importance of training in union organising. It was submitted by the national young members’ committee and noted the particular need for training among young members and how it underpins the successes of the Organising to Win campaign.

Rory Burgess moved the motion, saying: “As a new steward I’ve never taken strike action, nor have I organised it. That’s why this motion is so important.” He outlined the training which young members need to be able to become a full part of the union’s organising work.

NEC rep Micaela Tracy-Ramos (pictured above) added: “Young workers are at the sharp end of the public sector crisis.

“It’s education that will give these young members the skills to win for our union.”

The final motion of the set took up the issue of protecting the right to strike. It noted the draconian strike laws which had been brought in by Conservative governments since 2010 – particularly the 2016 Trade Union Act and the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023.

Mark Fisher of the NEC said: “The Minimum Service Level Act is just the latest in a long line of anti-trade union legislation. It is an attempt to intimidate people from voting to strike.

“We vowed to fight the 2016 Trade Union Act every step of the way and we will continue to do so. It’s no accident that the UK has some of the most restrictive trade union legislation in the western world.”