2014 was a big year for UNISON – and 2015 looks set to be even bigger.
As we mark the Christmas holiday and the start of a new year, I can’t help reflecting on the sacrifices our members are making every day to keep vital services going in the face of cuts and pay freezes.
For four years our people – ordinary people who aren’t rich, who didn’t create the banking crisis – have seen austerity eat away at the services you provide to keep our society running and support our vulnerable fellow citizens.
And to add injury to insult to injury, you’ve seen that same austerity eat away at your jobs, your wages and your standard of living.
Our people are suffering: in the 21st century, hard working people are having to make absolutely appalling choices, whether to buy food or keep warm; struggling on zero-hour contracts with no guaranteed work or pay; relying on in-work benefits; more and more having to turn to food banks and pay-day lenders.
Our health workers, our local community workers, our schoolworkers, our care workers – mainly low paid women – are still bearing the brunt.
And last year, many of you said simply: “Enough is enough”: 2014 saw hundreds of thousands of UNISON members vote for and take industrial action for fair pay and to protect services – in councils, the NHS, the Food Standards Agency, schools and universities, police staff and in many other workplaces up and down the country.
Action in the NHS in England will continue into next year, with more industrial action planned for January.
And, of course, there’s the general election in May – our chance to use our votes and demand a change of direction.
A new direction, away from an austerity agenda which drives our members deeper into financial straits while the rich get richer – because however you look at it, that’s not right.
2015 will be our chance to say so, to speak and act for our members and for our public services.
In the meantime, let’s enjoy the holiday period.