Theresa May: our union will continue to challenge and push our agenda

Today, our country will get a new prime minister. Theresa May will lead our country, despite lacking a mandate from her party’s members – never mind the public.

As someone who, in 2007, demanded that Gordon Brown call a general election after Labour members elected him PM, I hope that May will have the sense to go to the country as soon as possible.

That will mean we can all have a say on the actions of the party she now leads, and she will be forced to spell out a vision for our country.

Our expectation is that May will continue in a similar damaging vein to her predecessor – so UNISON will continue to call for an end to dangerous austerity, decent pay for public service workers, a real pay rise for public servants, proper investment in our public services, and of course carefully managing our future relationship with the EU in a way that protects those services.

Yet Theresa May has also made policy proposals that look like positive developments when contrasted with the bleak permanent austerity of the Cameron years.

So when Theresa May says that she favours employee representation on company boards – something which was in Labour’s manifesto only last year – we are in favour, as long as those employees have real powers and have a say, not just a seat in the boardroom.

UNISON workers in care companies – for example – could hold employers to account on low pay. And if this is to be accepted practice in the private sector, then let’s extend it into the public sector too, giving millions of public servants a greater voice.

When May says that she wants to tackle the “irrational, unhealthy and growing gap” between the pay of those at the top and those at the bottom, we’re willing to engage.

But that has to mean wage rises for hard pressed public servants too – and a living wage that people can actually live on, not Osborne’s watered down con job.

And when our new prime minister says that she wants to tackle the shortage in housing supply to close the divide between “those who inherit wealth and those who don’t” – we’re willing to work with anyone who is serious about providing affordable housing for millions of public servants priced out of the areas they work in, especially young and low paid workers.

UNISON will continue to oppose Tory austerity and the damage caused to our communities and public services – because real change for our country starts with the proper investment that this government has starved our country of for six years.

So we, like others, need to hold her to account. That means our union will challenge where necessary, but also push our agenda on the issues that matter.