A few more days to shape your union

With less than a week to go in the NEC elections, it is vital that as many members as possible use their vote

There are just a few more days to return your ballot in UNISON’s NEC election. It is important that we encourage members to participate and have their say in these crucial elections. Please use your vote and encourage colleagues to do the same. A good turnout can help ensure that the NEC truly reflect the membership of the whole union, so please help to make UNISON the union for all public service workers.

It has been devastating to watch the scenes in Gaza over the last few weeks, and the ceasefire that came into force today (Friday) is welcomed and long overdue. With at least 232 Palestinian deaths, including 60 children, and 12 Israeli deaths, UNISON condemns the violence and regrets the loss of life and injury to both Palestinians and Israelis. We also condemn the upsurge in antisemitism in the UK and across the world, and condemn those who seek to blame Jewish people for the actions of the Israeli government. UNISON stands in solidarity with trade unions and workers in Palestine and Israel who took part in a general strike this week, for peace, justice and rights. This situation is far more complex than a 140 character tweet can do justice to and I urge you to read the NEC statement on the situation.

Closer to home, there are concerns around the rise of cases of yet another COVID variant. Although it does look that the vaccines are able to defend against the worst impacts of the new strain originating from India. Whilst cases of this variant are rising across the country, overall cases numbers remain at a much lower level than we have experienced for some time, which is positive news. Bringing forward second jabs will help to suppress infection rates even more, however, June 21 may prove too soon to lift all restrictions, and I still feel that we are a way from ditching masks and social distancing altogether.

On a personal note, I was informed this week that my tickets for Scotland vs England due to take place in Wembley next month was being cancelled due to reductions in capacity. Whilst I’ll console myself by watching Scotland lose on TV, caution remains and will do for some time. The big questions that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation must now decide on is whether to bring in booster jabs for all this autumn, similar to the annual flu jab, and whether to vaccinate under 16’s. As Wales look to be first out of the blocks on vaccinating teenagers, we wait to hear on the plans in England.

The government has once again left the public in confusion and the travel industry in disarray this week over their ‘travel, but don’t travel’ messaging, with one minister contradicting another on a daily basis. It is reminiscent of the ‘go to work, but don’t go to work’ mixed message of last year. What we need is clear messaging and clear instruction, the one thing we rarely get from this government. 2021 looks like another year of staycation if you want some degree of certainty over your summer holidays.

It has been fantastic to see the photos and videos of health branches campaigning for a decent pay rise over the last two weeks. The resignation of the NHS nurse that kept watch throughout the night on the Prime Minister during his stay in intensive care last year really summed it up. Citing the government’s lack of respect and and the derisory 1% pay offer as the final straw, Jenny McGee and others like her have had enough. They deserve much better.

With the alarming rise in inflation during last month, a decent pay rise for all public sector workers is needed and needed now. It is vital that the whole union comes together to support a decent pay rise – not just for NHS staff – but for all members across all public services.

Stay safe