On the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush at Tillbury Docks, conference delegates slammed the terrible treatment of the Windrush generation by this UK Government and pledged to stand with them, with the full force of the union behind them.
Earlier conference had seen a video where Michael Braithwaite, one of the Windrush generation, who has lived here for 50 years, spoke about how he had been treated by the immigration services.
A teaching assistant and UNISON member, Michael described powerfully and movingly how being told he had no right to work or live in the UK had affected him and his life. His legal right to be in this country has now been confirmed, but the scars of his experience of losing his job and how he was treated will always be with him.
Scotland NEC member Davena Rankin moved the NEC’s emergency motion. She paid tribute to the Windrush generation who “came to the U.K. and transformed our trade union movement and public services.
“They brought their solidarity and their joy. Above all, despite the open hostility they faced from many, the Windrush generation faced the future with dignity and hope.
“That is why I am outraged that I have to move an emergency motion at this conference that demands an end to the injustice they are facing when we should instead be celebrating their contributions,” said Davena.
She condemned the UK government for hounding them, deporting them from this country and then lying about the deportations; for locking them up in detention centres and then trying to divert attention away from the inhumane consequences of that detention; for refusing them lifesaving NHS treatment and then making hollow promises of change whilst continuing to deny and delay the treatment.
“The very public services that the Windrush generation spent their lives building have now been turned against them,” slammed Davena.
“This is a shameful chapter in our country’s history. Black people – invisible when it comes to praise, good pay, promotions.
“But we are all too visible when it comes to deportations and detention.”
She added that many people have been directly attacked “by our disgraceful government” and we may never really know the true numbers of those involved “because of the disgraceful shenanigans of the home office.”
“But we do know that Theresa May and Amber Rudd tried to wash their hands of the problem.
“Rudd has gone but my message to May is simple, “You can’t wash away any of the guilt or the shame and we will never forget what you have done.”
Davena warned that the hostile environment created by May that led to this nightmare is still here“Regardless of what May may want, unison members are here to be public service workers, public service defenders. We are not here to be immigration border guards.
Davena pledged, “That is why we will bring the full might of this union to fight against the hostile environment. We will fight for the Windrush generation and for the all the generations of migrant workers that came after them.
“This is a fight that can’t be won by individuals but needs the full strength of our union.”