The vanguard of the fight against racism

UNISON has always actively challenged racism, and will always do so, wherever it raises its vile head

The killing of an unarmed Black American, George Floyd, is deeply distressing for all trade unionists. We stand in solidarity with our Black members and the Black community across the world.

UNISON, and all trade unions, have a responsibility to be in the vanguard of the fight against racism. We will continue to work, alongside organisations including ‘Hope not Hate’ and others to actively challenge racism wherever it raises its vile head.   

The disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on our Black community is a stark reminder of the inequality faced by Black members, with black members twice as likely to die from contracting Covid-19. The recent Government report is woefully inadequate and lacks advice or a strategy to deal with this evident health inequality. It is truly shocking. Once again, when we need immediate action and clear answers, all we get is Government obfuscation.  

As we move into this next phase of the pandemic, I still think that that the government is moving us out of lockdown too quickly. I have real concerns over a secondary spike in infections before we have adequately recovered from the first.

The government has now lost any moral authority after their handling of the entire Dominic Cummings debacle. He should have been sacked immediately, instead we saw one lame-duck Minister after another try to defend his actions. It really was an exercise in trying to defend the indefensible. 

In the South East, the rate of care homes deaths has increased not fallen, which supports my fear of a secondary wave of the virus. The safety measures, originally designed to save lives, are being lifted too soon, and continue to endanger the lives of UNISON members, especially those on front line duty.

It is vital that as we move onto this next phase, people do not forget the work and sacrifice of UNISON members across the country, how they have cared for the sick, protected the vulnerable, and kept the country going. As the clapping fades, it is time for a more permanent commemoration for the vital work that you do, day in and day out as well as campaigning for better pay and improve conditions, perhaps by calling for a new paid public holiday on the NHS anniversary on 5 July. 

Despite UNISON, teaching unions and several SAGE advisors calling for a delay, staff and children in England have begun to return to schools this week. Early reports have shown that many schools have had lower than anticipated numbers of children returning. Many parents agree with us that it is still too soon, especially for the youngest children, to be back in the classroom.   

Our region’s campaign Protect Your Colleagues encouraging more members to become Health & Safety reps is going from strength to strength with almost a hundred potential new H&S reps identified in workplaces up and down the region. I am delighted that so many have already responded to this call, but please do continue to encourage your UNISON colleagues to step forward at this vital time and join our growing numbers of H&S reps. And don’t forget to check the national and regional websites for the latest info on safe workplaces, which are being regularly updated.

Last week was the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, which unfortunately has not received the coverage it deserves this year due to other events in the news. It is vital that equal pay and equal value does not slip off the bargaining agenda, with still a long way to go in many workplaces, UNISON will continue to call for this inequality to end, and to improve the pay of our lowest-paid members, particularly those working in social care.   

Thank you for all that you are doing to support members and communities across the region. Stay safe and well.