We’re in a fight for our future in 2024

In a New Year message, regional secretary Tim Roberts says this year could be make or break for public service workers

A UNISON band on the march

I hope you had a good Christmas break and got the chance to recharge your batteries — we’re going to need all the strength we’ve got for the year ahead.

While we were enjoying the season of goodwill, the Tories were ploughing on with their latest vicious and vindictive attack on our fundamental rights.

They thought the 2016 Trade Union Act — blocking strike votes unless they reached turnout thresholds that would leave most council chambers empty if applied to local government — would be enough to stop industrial action.

But they were wrong, as the huge strike wave in 2022 and 2023 showed. Hundreds of thousands of workers have risen to the challenge, taking action for decent wages and against cuts to the services the public relies upon.

So rather than trying to stop strikes happening, the government is hoping to stop effective strikes. Employers can demand that staff in health, education, transport, fire and rescue, border security and nuclear decommissioning continue to work through stoppages to keep things running.

An ambulance picket holds a placard reading: 'we are still providing emergency cover'

This isn’t about protecting the public, this is Rishi Sunak trying to hold down the public sector wage bill so he doesn’t have to make his super-rich chums pay their taxes. It’s retaliation for last year’s ambulance strikes and stoppages in universities, schools and on the railways.

UNISON is totally opposed to minimum service levels. We’re supporting the TUC march and rally in Cheltenham on Saturday 27 January, commemorating the sacking of GCHQ trade unionists who refused to leave their union 40 years ago.

Event information

Those workers eventually won their fight when the 1997 Labour government lifted the GCHQ ban on union membership, with some of the sacked staff being offered their jobs back in 2000.

And that brings us to the other big fight in 2024: the general election. After a decade and a half of falling wages, cuts to services and attacks on our rights, we can’t let up on this chance to give them the boot.

We need to start talking to our colleagues now about how this election can benefit public-service workers and trade unionists.

Talk to them about Labour’s New Deal for Working People, a set of pledges clamping down on insecure work and guaranteeing workers’ rights.

Labour has promised to enact the New Deal within 100 days of winning an election. Trade unionists will have to work to hold them to the commitment, but it’s something we can get our workmates excited about.

Let’s make 2024 the year we win.