What a time to be starting a new job. I’ve been elected general secretary of UNISON at one of the most challenging times for public services, our union and all four nations of the UK.
But I know that I have dedicated staff and wonderful activists across the UK to work with on the challenges facing us over the coming weeks, months and years.
I want to thank everyone who campaigned and voted for me, and indeed everyone who took the time to vote in the election. I promise to work across all parts of our union to continue to fight for our members and public services.
As I start this new chapter, I’m lucky that, for my inspiration, I need look no further than our incredible members. The people who have been working across health, social care, energy, education, police and justice and local government throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
It’s their skill and dedication that will not only see us out of the other side of the pandemic, but also help us to rebuild our communities in the aftermath.
My immediate priorities will be to support our members – and all public service workers – through the pandemic. That means campaigning against the Westminster government’s plans for an ill-judged pay freeze for all public service workers apart from those in health.
It also means pushing for the promised pay rise for NHS staff to be paid promptly, and for the funding and the political will to create a quality, affordable national care service, where staff are respected and paid fairly.
We need to continue to speak up strongly and oppose injustice and discrimination wherever we see it. And it’s that commitment to equalities at the heart of UNISON that sets us apart from other unions.
So yes, this is a challenging time to take up the reins as general secretary, but I’m also fortunate to have the legacy of a strong, growing union and the incredible work done by my predecessor Dave Prentis over the past 20 years, to build on.
I’ve been a national negotiator for over 25 years across most sectors in UNISON and I will use that experience to work with our amazing lay leaders to make sure this and future governments never forget the commitment, hard work and sacrifices made by our members this year.
There is so much more to do and to talk about in the coming weeks and months, but for now, I can reassure you that your union – our union – will continue to be there for you, fighting for the public services that hold the UK’s communities together, and building a fairer, more equal society.