Let’s hear it for the One Weekend award winners!

The probation branch celebrates winning an award

Every year, we take a moment to step back and celebrate what we’ve achieved in the region.

And although every UNISON Eastern activist deserves an award for all they do making public services better places to work, we pay a special tribute to some of the branches and activists that have really stood out over the last year.

All branches, activists and regional staff could make nominations but the final decisions rest with the finance, development and organisation committee after lengthy debate.

So without further ado, give it up for the 2024 award winners!

Probation branch activists show off their recruitment award and absentee activist of the year Elisa's trophy

Recruiting branch of the year

Eastern Probation

While most awards are based on nominations, the recruiting branch of the year wins on cold, hard stats.

Every part of the union was set a target to grow by 1% in 2023, Eastern Region Probation, smashed that, ending the year 14% larger than it started it.

You can read some of the reasons behind this inspiring success here.

Read more

Cambridgeshire County branch with their campaigning branch of the year award

Campaigning branch of the year

Cambridgeshire County

Our campaigns make our union, encouraging members to get active, challenging the employer and trying to get politicians on side.

This year’s winner did just that in a Tory stronghold: Huntingdonshire District Council, where unions had been derecognised in 1997.

UNISON won back a seat at the table in 2022 and last year fought claw back decades of lost pay. The five new reps had constant branch support and got members riled up enough to back strikes in an official ballot.

That brought the council back to its senses and staff eventually won a deal worth more than the previous five years combined.

Tyler Whyte (left) receives his award

Young activist of the year

Tyler Whyte

It’s not always easy flying the UNISON flag in outsourced companies, but Tyler has set a real example at East Suffolk Services Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary providing East Suffolk’s waste, recycling, facilities, traffic enforcement and grounds maintenance.

After playing a key role in last year’s TUPE transfer and leading a pay campaign in the old employer where a massive ballot turnout forced a better offer, he’s now a senior steward.

As well as leading complex negotiations and casework, he’s recruited four new reps, strengthening UNISON’s presence at ESSL. That’s led to real improvements in the workplace.

UEA branch officers receive their health and safety award

Health and safety branch of the year

University of East Anglia

UEA UNISON is leading the way in health and safety, raising concerns, assisting with accident investigations and conducting inspections.

When office staff were moved to a converted chemistry lab, several fell ill and complained of a pungent smell. The branch health and safety committee swung into action, making sure staff were relocated while an urgent risk assessment and investigation was carried out.

And after an accident in the cleaning team, the H&S committee ensured equipment was replaced and procedures reviewed — well done UEA UNISON!

Jo Bateman receives here equalities activist award from regional convenor Becky Tye

Equalities activist of the year

Jo Bateman

Despite being relatively new to UNISON activism, Jo spearheaded efforts to get St Albans Council to sign UNISON’s Anti-Racism Charter.

And she hasn’t let it be a photo op — she’s making sure progress is tracked and changes are happening and is now working on marking year of LGBT+ workers at the council.
She has also helped in the branch’s initiative to provide free sanitary products to all staff members these include tampons, sanitary towels, and male incontinence pads – in all workplace toilets.

She has made her employer a better place not just for members of equalities communities but all workers.

Suffolk County celebrates winning the comms branch award

Communication branch of the year

Suffolk County

This branch knows the success of any campaign rests with how well you’re engaging with members, non-members, employers and key stakeholders.

This was perhaps best shown when support staff were threatened with redundancies at Pot Kiln Primary School. The high-profile campaign involved face-to-face conversations, emails, petitions, leaflets and media coverage, with affected workers taking to the airwaves to put their case.

As part of their local government pay campaign, Suffolk County UNISON wrote to all councillors and held a sizable rally — turning the PA system up loud enough that everyone could hear.

Elisa signing the anti-racism charter

Activist of the year

Elisa Vasquez-Walters

Activist of the year is always a crowded field, but this year the judges decided to pay tribute to someone who not only works tirelessly for the Eastern Region Probation branch, but also the national sector committee and service group executive.

She’s clear it’s a team effort, but under her leadership, the branch was the fastest growing in the region last year.

Let’s leave the last word to a fellow activist in her branch: “There is no one I would want other than her to represent me in the workplace. She has raised the profile of probation members in the service group and across the union.”

Members of Bedfordshire Health UNISON pose with their award for branch of the year

Branch of the year

Bedfordshire Health

Bedfordshire Health activists invested huge amounts of time, energy and resources in campaigning for its members.

For the last year, healthcare assistants in the branch have run a dogged campaign for fair pay: for years they’ve been getting up to £2,000 a year less than they should have.

Four hundred new members, 15 new stewards, three new branch officers later and two days of strikes later, they won their rebanding fight.

It was the clinical support staff themselves that led the negotiations and standing on the picket lines — which represented the strength and diversity of our union brilliantly — you could sense they weren’t going to settle for less than they’re worth.

Well done Bedfordshire Health!