UNISON members from across the country recently met with their Members of Parliament to explain to them why it was so important to urgently reverse the real world pay cuts that public service workers have suffered since 2010.
Two of the members who took part in the Pay Up Now! lobby were Jenny Ford and Fran Fox. Jenny is branch secretary of UNISON Portsmouth Health branch and deputy convenor of the South East region, whilst Fran is the branch chair of UNISON Hampshire Health branch.
Why did you attend the lobby? Why is the UNISON Pay Up Now campaign important for you and for your members?
Jenny Ford: Because – in the area I work – lots of my members are low paid and their pay isn’t covering their cost of living. Because of pay freezes and low pay rises, most are surviving on food banks.
Fran Fox: I attended the lobby to add my support to this important campaign that affects our members in a similar way to Jenny’s.
Did you meet with your MP? Who was this? What was it like – were they supportive?
Jenny Ford: Stephen Morgan is our new Labour MP. He wasn’t in parliament that day as he had an emergency Council Meeting in Portsmouth, but his representative met with us. We talked about our concerns and they informed us Stephen was with us on these issues and would support our campaign in parliament. We also supported our colleagues from the Southampton Hospitals branch who met with their MP – so our Region was represented very well.
Fran Fox: I wasn’t able to able to meet with my MP Stephen Morgan, but was able to have some time with his staff which was worthwhile.
What advice would you give someone lobbying their MP for the first time?
Jenny Ford: We have lobbied parliament before. But I think region will give guidelines as what to do or you can go with someone who has been before. It was a very enjoyable experience.
Fran Fox: My advice would be to persist in a meeting. Make sure that you go with prepared questions, and share what the Unison line is.
Why did you attend with someone from another branch? Do you often work with this other branch? Why?
Jenny Ford: I often work closely with UNISON Hampshire Health branch as my Trust also has members who are based in their branch and with everybody’s facility time being cut back, you can’t always get to people from same branch to attend. Also Stephen Morgan is also Fran’s local MP.
Fran Fox: We had been at the Regional Health meeting the day before, so we stayed overnight in readiness for next day’s lobby. I attended with Portsmouth Health Branch – we often work closely with this Branch because we share some employers.
Did you attend the demonstration afterwards? If so, why/why not? What was it like?
Jenny Ford: Yes we attended for a short while – long enough to hear Dave Prentis’ speech, which as normal, was very rousing. I was sorry it was so late in the day as the atmosphere was electric.
Fran Fox: The demo was quite late, but I did stay to hear Dave Prentice’s passionate speech.
How did you meet MP Dennis Skinner? Why was this important to you?
Jenny Ford: We met Dennis Skinner on way into parliament. Fran complimented Dennis on his speech at UNISON Labour Link Conference but he was more than happy to talk about what we we’re doing. He was impressed by us being there and told us that he supported our campaign and to ‘carry on with the good work’ (his words!). What better than to have pictures in front of parliament with such a great man?
Fran Fox: We met Dennis Skinner in the grounds of Parliament. I asked to have photo with him then we started talking about the recent Labour Party Conference, congratulating him on his speech. We had quite a long chat with this amusing gentleman. He spoke about never using emails, and only ever writing, then posting his letters, in order to keep the postal workers in employment! Not so much important to me to meet him, as an honour to have done so. He is a legend.
Find out more about UNISON’s Pay Up Now! campaign.