This blog normally focuses on the important local and national news and the problems our union, its members, activists and staff are grappling with.
But this time I’d like to start with something a bit more personal. I’m delighted to announce that following interviews earlier this month, I’ve been appointed as permanent regional secretary.
As I said back in April when I started acting up in the role, it’s a great responsibility to lead UNISON Eastern through these challenging times.
Since then, every day has brought fresh proof of quite how vital trade unions are.
Whether its improving and informing employer’s risk assessments, securing proper PPE in care homes or ensuring schools are properly cleaned before students come back, UNISON’s activists and staff have been working hard to make workplaces safe.
Nationally, we’ve been pushing for more emergency funding for local councils, universities and other public services and the extension of the furlough scheme to make sure workers, in the public or private sector, don’t bear the brunt of the pandemic.
They’ve already had to shoulder the burden of austerity over the last decade. Public services have been systematically run down, underfunded and understaffed – not because the country could no longer afford them, not because they weren’t doing anything important, but because successive prime ministers took the political decision that providing quality services for the public good was no longer a priority.
For a decade, public services, and the people who deliver them, have been undervalued.
During the pandemic, we have had a singular focus on defending our members and the public from Covid-19 and a haphazard official response. But now our union is campaigning for vital changes in our society after Covid (whenever that might be!).
At last week’s online TUC Congress UNISON launched No Going Back To Normal, a new campaign to fight for better public services.
No Going Back to Normal
Rebuild all our public services, by securing long term investment and making money available to employ and train the number of staff that are needed to ensure our services are there when you need them;
Create fairer and safer work places with proper risk assessments. Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. Disabled workers need to have the right to work from home if they want to;
Give public-sector workers a decent pay rise because the pandemic has shown how important they are. This would also help the lowest paid out of in-work poverty;
Build a fairer and greener post Covid-19 society, in which the inequalities that have become so evident during the crisis are addressed as a matter of urgency.
One of UNISON Eastern’s members, paramedic Trish, has been used to launch the campaign and explain perhaps better than me why it’s so important:
“Everything has changed apart from us.”
“People have had to change the way they work, the way they dress, the way they socialise, but we’re dealing with the repercussions of Covid with no extra pay or equipment.
“Our new normal is a lot like the old one.”
I’ll be doing everything I can to stop the new normal being exactly the same as the old one.
UNISON needs to be bold, in our workplaces and our communities, in arguing for a better future.
As your regional secretary I look forward to working with you to make it a reality.