In a year like no other, thank you!

South East regional secretary Steve Torrance gives his thanks to everyone working over Christmas and the reps who’ve supported UNISON members in 2020

Looking back on a year like no other, I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for everything you have done this year, to support UNISON members and the public. 2020 has shown the world, what we in UNISON already knew, that ‘key workers’ in public services are vital to keeping the country safe and well, delivering services that the entire population relies upon, day in day out. 

Thank you to all of you, not just for your work in your day jobs as key workers, but also for the incredible support you have given to so many UNISON members during these times of need. Supporting member through furlough, resolving issues over PPE supply, and ensuring that members were kept safe at work, you have all worked relentlessly to be there for members in the hardest of times. It shouldn’t have taken a pandemic to highlight the importance of key workers, but now, with the public fully behind you, our task for 2021 is to continue our campaign so that you receive the reward in better pay, as well as recognition for the job you do.  

Thanks also to the branches who have donated to our charity ‘There for You’, which has done an incredible job this year supporting UNISON members in need. They have delivered Covid-19 support grants, assistance and help to those who lost their income, and more than 1000 school children returned to school this September in school uniforms paid for by ‘There For You’. Our charity has helped thousands of members and their families for which they will be forever grateful. 

At the time of writing (Thursday am), it remains to be seen whether we will have secured a trade deal by the end of the year. The eleventh-hour negotiations are going to be running right to the wire. Of course, we all hope for a deal with our closest and largest trading partners, that protects jobs and environmental standards for the UK. With the economic outlook already looking grim for 2021, a no-deal situation will only exacerbate this. As talks continue, all we can do is cross our fingers and hope for the best.  

It has been marvellous to see people receive the first doses of the Covid vaccine over the last week, but it is clear that a full rollout is going to take some time. Meanwhile, cases continue to soar and this week has seen much of the region move into tier 3 restrictions. In the South East, it is very much a tale of two tiers, as we have both the highest levels of infection, in Swale, and the lowest, on the Isle of Wight. We are all too aware that the relaxation of rules over Christmas may result in yet another spike in cases soon afterwards. Just because we can meet with other households, it doesn’t mean we should. 

As some of us look forward to time off over the holiday period, I am acutely aware that many UNISON members will be working throughout Christmas and New Year, so a special thanks to those of you who are working during this time to help keep the rest of us safe and well. Not all heroes wear capes, but this year they definitely wear face masks! 

Whatever you have planned over the festive season, take extra care and stay safe. 

Very best wishes to you and yours, and a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.