Three cheers for the branches and activists that make UNISON Eastern great

Meet the award winners from the UNISON Eastern One Weekend

Without our branches and activists there would be no UNISON. Every year at the One Weekend we celebrate the people giving up their own time and energy to build our union.

They do it because workers in our public services deserve more and it’s only through organising together that we can have an organisation with the clout to get it.

Activists certainly don’t do it for praise, but the UNISON Eastern One Weekend is our chance to praise the activists and branches that have gone even more above and beyond than the rest.

So, without further ado, give a big round of virtual applause to the 2023 winners!

Norfolk County's Frances receives the award from Becky

Campaigning Branch

Norfolk County

Campaigning is vital, it’s how we raise awareness and fight for the issues that matter to public service staff.

Norfolk County branch does this across a range of service groups and wins.

It’s struck for better wages on various Norfolk refuse contracts, fought local pay claims in higher education and even organised a parliamentary lobby of care workers to push for better wages and conditions.

Well done to a branch that never stops fighting.

EEAS branch take to the stage in front of the UNISON banner

Health and Safety Branch

East of England Ambulance Service

The easing of the pandemic over the last year didn’t see any similar easing in our branches’ commitment to health and safety – but the work of EEAS really shone out.

When the employer decided to move staff to central hubs, the branch H&S officer got on the implementation team to ensure welfare facilities were properly included in the design, including private spaces for mothers to express milk.

After a long campaign to remind staff how best to carry out manual handling when exiting and entering vehicles, there has been a noticeable reduction in injuries.

The winner is the ever-alert EEAS branch.

North Wes Anglia Hospitals branch picks up their gong

Top Recruiting Branch

North West Anglia Hospitals

Ceaseless walkarounds, high-profile banding campaigns, wellbeing events, welcome days for overseas nurses and the most amazing cupcakes all helped NWA branch scoop this prize.

A whopping 272 new members joined in 2022, a net increase of 113 members or 11% – the largest percentage growth in the region.

Congratulations to North West Anglia Hospitals UNISON!

Josette receives her award from Becky

Equalities Activist of the Year

Josette Kennington

Josette has been a fantastic advocate for Black members both in her branch, Cambridgeshire County, and the wider UNISON community.

She’s helped set up a county-wide Black members self-organised group and empowered colleagues to speak up against discrimination.

Working with the council’s equality, diversity and inclusion team, she was instrumental in getting the employer to sign up to UNISON’s Anti-Racism Charter, the first local authority in the region to do so.

If that wasn’t enough, she’s now jointly taking on the role of branch women’s officer!

Read more

Firdy from UNISON Essex picks up her award from regional convenor Becky Tye

Communications Branch


This branch proves what you can do when the comms officer, branch secretary and branch-employed staff all work together.

It ensures members (in thousands of different employers) are kept abreast of pay campaigns and consultations. Its social media features reports from conference delegates and it did a fantastic job of highlighting various elements from Black history last October.

But it still does things the old way for members without email addresses, sending paper newsletters to make sure everyone stays in the loop.

Fantastic work, UNISON Essex!

Eleesha holds up her award

Young Activist of the Year

Eleesha Kyriazis

A young members officer at Norwich City and member of the Eastern young members committee for the last three years, Eleesha is always outspoken on the issues that matter to her and makes a massive contribution.

She represented the region on the National Young Members Forum in 2022, spoke at the national YM conferences in ’21 and ’22 and attended and spoke at NDC to represent young members in her branch.

She is now working on developing a Norwich-wide young members group to build and encourage activism.

We can’t wait to see what she gets up to next! Well done Eleesha!

Read more

Chris holds his award

Activist of the Year

Chris Swain

With so many amazing activists, this is a hard-fought category but the judges decided to recognise an activist who’s led the Environment Agency Anglia branch through its first ever pay strike.

Chris has played a leading role in delivering action: working day and night to ensure everything was in place, managing picket lines and maximising media coverage.

Despite health issues, he is always willing to help and go extra mile to support branch officers and members. He took on many complex cases and achieved positive outcomes.

Chris is very humble, friendly, approachable, well-respected by the colleagues and thoroughly deserving of this accolade. Well done, Chris!

Read more

Neil and Gwenda from Suffolk County pick up their award from Becky, celebrating with jazz hands

Branch of the Year

Suffolk County

This is a branch which invests time, energy and resources in campaigning for its members.

It has held numerous rallies and marches as part of its You Care, We Care campaign, getting social care members active in the branch and engaging with local politicians.

During the November rally a fire drill caused an exodus of County Hall. Branch activists spotted the opportunity and led a march to the muster point waving UNISON flags and chanting. Passers-by thought it was the biggest demo Ipswich had ever seen!

And it’s taking action at a primary school in Suffolk after governors announced plans to slash 15 of its classroom assistants and midday supervisors. They built density and staged three days of strikes, already saving a number of jobs and hoping to save more.

With so much vibrant campaigning it’s little wonder that Suffolk County has won this award!