1993 was a year of exceptional events. Nelson Mandela received his Nobel Peace Prize, the world wide web was introduced, the EU was formally established – as was the UK Independence Party.
The film Groundhog Day was also released and, as in the film, it feels like we’re stuck on repeat. Although it’s 30 years on, the political debate on the EU continues, and another Tory prime minister is preparing for a wipeout at the next general election. Perhaps John Major and Rishi Sunak are comparing notes.
1993 also saw a significant event, that was sadly, not a one-off. The racist murder of Stephen Lawrence – a Black man on the streets of London – and the failings in justice that followed, was a nightmare that’s still repeated for Black families. And after the World Health Organisation declared tuberculosis a global emergency in ’93, another even more deadly virus took hold across the globe.
But one other positive thing that was created in 1993 has lasted throughout – UNISON. The UK’s biggest union was formed on 1 July 1993 at the merger of COHSE, NUPE and Nalgo, representing 1.3 million members in public services, and still going strong.
In those 30 years, governments have come and governments have gone, but UNISON has been there to protect and defend our members’ rights, their jobs, public services, and has campaigned non-stop against discrimination and to advance the trade union movement around the globe.
And this, our thirtieth year, is UNISON’s Year of Black Workers. At our national delegate conference earlier this month, we presented Doreen and Neville Lawrence with honorary life membership of UNISON – in receiving this award, they join a very select group that includes Nelson Mandela.
Never lose sight of the importance of what you do, every day for UNISON members. Events that happen in one day can shape the world for decades, while what we achieve today will benefit our public services – and the workers who provide them – for years to come.
I know that with our shared commitment and hard work, we can make sure UNISON is still around for another 30 years and beyond.