Today, on Windrush Day, we mark 75 years since the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury in Essex after travelling from Jamaica. The post-war arrival of this generation of Commonwealth citizens transformed the UK and our trade union movement, as their work helped build our public services.
If Windrush had never docked in the UK, we wouldn’t be celebrating 75 years of our treasured NHS this year, because many of the Windrush generation went straight to work in the health service.
Although we celebrate the arrival of the Windrush generation, we cannot adequately commemorate the day until those caught up in the Windrush scandal experience some measure of justice.
This country had taken the best years of their lives, but rather than give them gratitude and a peaceful retirement, the government served them with demeaning letters telling them to leave.
Many lost their homes, families, health and even, tragically, their lives. Denied access to public services they helped to build and treated like second class citizens in the country they had made their home.
The compensation scheme was deeply flawed – slow, burdensome for claimants and with mostly pitiful payments. Then Suella Braverman reneged on the government’s commitments laid out in Wendy Williams’s independent review.
Commitments that UNISON had campaigned for. So we’re fighting it in the High Court, campaigning in parliament and organising in workplaces.
Last year on Windrush Day I said that UNISON would always stand with the Windrush generation – and all migrant workers.
I stand true to these words today.
During UNISON’s Year of Black Workers we can all take this opportunity to double down in our efforts. UNISON branches are busy organising and supporting our migrant worker members who are still facing the Home Office’s hostile environment.
And UNISON resources will continue to go on defending them as equal workers and equal citizens in the UK.