President opens union’s national conference in Brighton

Welcoming delegates to conference, she spoke of her history in the union and her year as president before presenting the Eric Roberts award

Image: Steve Forrest/Workers’ photos

UNISON’s national delegate conference opened today in Brighton with a speech from UNISON president Libby Nolan.

After speaking of her personal experience over decades in the union movement she turned to contemporary issues: “We know that the problems in this country come from billionaires in yachts, not leaky dinghies.

“We say loud and clear, refugees and asylum seekers are always welcome here – solidarity to everyone in this room who, like my parents travelled here for a better life.

“And we can’t meet here without holding our hearts and thinking of Gaza and the West Bank. UNISON has a long proud history of solidarity with the Palestinian people and we continue to stand with the trade union movement in demanding an immediate and permanent ceasefire with full access to humanitarian assistance.”

Image: Steve Forrest/Workers’ photos

Addressing delegates directly she said: “Every success to every one of you in this room. Always, always be on the right side of history and the right side of the picket line.

“Thank you to my NEC colleagues, thank you for the unity and support. We don’t always agree but we have a common goal.

“Thank you to Christina for your work for our union and your help over the last year,” before thanking the vice-presidential team, Steve North and Julia Mwaluke, “for their strong shoulders either side of me.”

She closed by saying: “Choose wisely the giants on whose shoulders you will stand as trade unionists, and march in their footprints. Solidarity comrades.”

From l-r, Libby Nolan, Helena Fletcher and Christina McAnea Image: Steve Forrest/Workers’ photos

Eric Roberts award

After her speech Libby presented the Eric Roberts award, named after the union’s former president. It celebrates effective or innovative campaigning by young members – for workplace issues, or wider political campaigns.

Helena Fletcher from Sheffield Community Health branch (pictured below) received the award for, according to her branch, the “enormous amount of enthusiasm towards the role of young members officer, the importance of union membership and celebrating diversity”.

The branch also mentioned that Helena’s “enthusiasm has become welcomely contagious amongst everyone she meets”.

Speaking earlier in the year, Helena said: “I feel honoured to even be nominated by my branch – to win is an overwhelming surprise.

“I can’t thank the branch enough for their support with my learning, and for making me feel welcome and part of the team.

“I’m honoured, thankful and a bit shocked to win this award! I hope to continue driving change – and I’m hoping to encourage fellow members too.”

Image: Steve Forrest/Workers’ photos