We can make change happen

Christina McAnea addressed this year’s women’s conference reminding us that UNISON is coming up to its 30th birthday. She reflected on the changes over that time.

She spoke about how women have made a difference over the years, and referenced our own Carol Ball, leader of the Scottish nursery workers strike many years ago. This was Carol’s introduction to activism and she went on to be key in Scottish and National Local Government leadership.

Christina slammed the Tory government and their abject failure to invest in public services. “For years we’ve warned of the consequences of this underinvestment in services and public service workers, and now we are reaping the consequences,” said Christina, calling it a perfect storm.

That is why union members are standing up and taking action as a collective. The reballot of members in health branches means that every ambulance branch bar one in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has a mandate for strike action. More health boards have also reached the ballot threshold.

Christina said that she was privileged to lead a union where our members do such wonderful jobs. She spoke of her pride in sharing members’ stories but that she was even more proud to hear members on picket lines tell their own stories “from the heart”.

She rejected the language of the politicians and media that our members are “out of touch”

“We are no longer trade union barons – it’s women leading the action – not just me, but throughout our union.”

Christina congratulated Scotland health on their additional 6.5% negotiated for health members.

She condemned the latest attack on our right to strike by the Tory government saying: “Our members are still keeping people safe – even on strike days. The last time the ambulance branches were out I visited picket lines up and down the country. On every single picket line I saw members leaving the pickets to keep people safe.

“But it’s not all about strikes,” said Christina. “It’s about bargaining and negotiations and all sorts of other campaigns. They make a huge impact for our members at work. They might not make the news but it’s all the work that goes on day by day that makes a difference to our members’ lives.”

She looked at what kind of world we wanted to see in 30 years time and called for a world where diversity is valued, where public services are valued and respected and where workers are decently treated and paid. A world of greater equality, where women in leadership is the norm.

“We need, as women to be bold and proud and we can make change happen.”