Union membership is a Human Right

10th December is Human Rights Day. This date marks the signing of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. As the United Nations explain:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and it has been translated into over 500 languages.

There’s plenty in the declaration that UNISON Portsmouth Health branch would actively support; UNISON has always been in the forefront of fighting for equality. But article 23 is particularly relevant:

  1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  2. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
  3. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  4. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.


Those rights seem pretty reasonable to us – but sadly, seven decades on, it’s worth pausing to remember that UNISON and other unions have to organise hard to even reach these bottom lines. For example, the mid-year stats for the Trussell Trust (April-September 2019) show that over 36% of food bank referrals were made because of low income. And how many of us know colleagues who are still scared to join a union?

That’s why UNISON Portsmouth Health decided to mark the anniversary of the declaration. The idea was simple: to use the anniversary to remind colleagues that decent jobs, a real living wage and UNISON membership shouldn’t be seen as anything other than a right. And the branch decided to do this by building a stronger union to make sure that this bottom line could be maintained.

That’s why at hospitals like the Queen Alexandra in Cosham, staff may have seen material outlining article 23 and a prize draw the branch was running. There were 2 easy ways to enter this competition. All colleagues needed to do was join UNISON – or if they were already members, confirm that the branch held the correct contact details for them. Doing so meant that they could win their share of a prize pot of gift vouchers worth £100.

The logic behind this approach was simple. The more members UNISON has – the bigger UNISON Portsmouth Health branch is – the better we are at representing our member’s interests. We know in negotiations we often have more success when we represent more of the workforce. And we can’t make sure that your voice is heard and that you get all the information you need if we can’t talk to you because the contact details we hold are out of date. Finally, UNISON know with Christmas coming up, finances are tight and a £50 voucher means a lot to some of our members (which is why some low paid members are also able to access a winter fuel grant).

We wanted to do all this whilst making sure that staff paid attention and remembered Human Rights Day – so of course the prize draw for UNISON Portsmouth Health branch took place on 10th December. But if you missed the draw, don’t worry: it’s never too late to help build a strong union. You can join UNISON and update your contact details online.