Blog: Six months into our new era

It’s been an incredibly busy but productive and fulfilling first half year as your general secretary – with many achievements across our great union

Christina McAnea
Six months ago I took up post as UNISON’s newly elected general secretary.
My passion for fighting for every member has been unrelenting for decades, so my plans for our future in UNISON were clear and driven by the experiences of our hard-working members and activists across every region and service group. 

I promised that branches, regions, and devolved nations would get the resources they need and my pledge to support every member pitched a bold plan for a new UNISON College.

Demanding a new deal for public services and public service workers had to be a central part of our journey out of COVID, as well as leading the fight for a universal social care service. And underpinning it all, was my commitment to leading the way in dismantling discrimination in all its ugly forms – another pandemic, so brutally accelerated by COVID.

Since January, together, we’ve taken the fight to the government on their failings and their cronyism. We’ve stood against their plans for mandatory COVID vaccinations for nervous care workers, challenged their confusing messages on mask-wearing, questioned changes to isolation rules for health and social care workers and called for an urgent public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic.

We now have high profile pay campaigns in health, higher education and local government and we won a landmark legal case to put an end to employers’ strike-breaking tactics.

Every day, we defend our members, exhausted from working throughout the pandemic, but facing backlogs and staffing shortages as COVID infections soar once again. Sadly, we have had to repeatedly confront sickening racism and hateful abuse.

I’ve joined many members online, taken our message out to the media and used our first online special delegate conference to urge the government to bring forward the start of the public inquiry.

I ramped up our persistent demand for investment in the public services that have kept the UK going through the pandemic and reminded our activists to always keep the passion that got them active in the first place.

To help our activists deal with their workload and the pressures of fragmented workplaces, our branch resources review passed at conference and we will now make sure all resources of the union are in the right place, at the right time.

As we look to the future, our union and our members will face many more battles in an ever-changing world of work and global economy.

Our new UNISON College will equip members with the skills and training they need. The work to review our existing learning and training programmes, so we can build a clear offer for all members and activists, is already underway.

We must remain at the forefront of planning for a just transition, and future skills for workers in a low carbon economy. As the UK’s largest women’s organisation we will bolster our power by increasing women’s engagement and proportionality across our democracy – a special project on this has already started.

As I look back at the last six months, I couldn’t be prouder of what we have achieved. I promise to be with every member, every step of the way, because I know our union is stronger when we pull together.