UNISON has never ducked a challenge and we’re not going to start now

Gordon McKay
President, Gordon McKay

No other organisation in the UK is winning for their members like this union is, UNISON president Gordon McKay told delegates in his presidential speech.

He praised the victory upon victory won by UNISON members recently but warned they will make the union a target for the right wing media, the Tories and rogue employers.

“But UNISON has never ducked a challenge” – and Conference, we’re not going to start now”, he told delegates in a speech that had delegates on their feet.

Funny, at times personal and moving, and burning with an anger at the injustices being suffered by working people, Gordon urged delegates to have pride in how they, through their union, have made life better for thousands of people.

These included the probation service being brought back in house; health members in Doncaster; local government members in Sandwell; higher education members in Bangor; hospital cleaners in Harlow; care workers in Birmingham – finally forcing the council to back down after a 18 months of concerted strike action.

“What a great example these activists have set for the rest of the union by fighting these battles – and by winning them.”

“Conference, this shows just what a great responsibility rests on our shoulders.

“For no other organisation in the UK is winning for its members with this regularity.”

And he warned: “None of these successes happen by accident or happen because we got lucky. They happen because we have worked tirelessly to build our density and our organising strength.”

“We are recruiting more members because they trust UNISON, because they trust you as activists.”

As he thanked those who had helped and supported him over the last year, he regretted there was one person not here to see his presidential speech. That was his mother who died recently.

Gordon said: “My mother told me two things I think all mothers tell you. One is that I love you. The other was you’re daft to go out without a coat!”

The serious political point was there. His mother had been brought up at a time when there was no NHS, when there was no decent welfare provision. And now we are seeing the progress made being rolled back by this Tory government.

“The fifth largest economy in the world yet heading towards US levels of inequality – and damned by the UN for knowingly inflicting needless misery and suffering”, said Gordon.

“Worst of all for me is that our schools have been forced to become the fourth emergency service for the poorest families. In the average UK classroom, there are now nine children living below the poverty line.

“Nothing sums up the callous disregard for those left behind by austerity than this.

“So Conference, it’s safe to say that no one in our union will be shedding any tears for Theresa May.”

He slammed the shambolic handling of Brexit and told Conference: “It remains absolutely paramount that we do everything in our power to resist the re-imposition of a hard border in Ireland.”

But he warned that we mustn’t kid ourselves that just because Theresa May has gone the good times are here.

“Just look at the rogues gallery of those lining up to succeed her.

“Politicians who have overseen repeated and merciless attacks on the public sector. Politicians who have presided over the worst fall in living standards for 200 years

“And Conference, they are not content with causing ruin domestically. We’ve also seen them shamelessly sucking up to Donald Trump. A borderline fascist whose narcissism knows no bounds. And who has signalled his intention to make our NHS a target for American companies.”

Gordon called on delegates to re-double their efforts to meet these challenges.

Gordon spoke of his Presidential cause – the funding of a maternity clinic in Malawi. The funds have been raised for the building and are now going to the equipment. Gordon is also looking to fund £150 a year to give every child a breakfast in the local school.

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