Standing shoulder to shoulder with our Black colleagues

UNISON condemns the vile online racism towards the England football team

I want to start by congratulating the England team for getting as far as they did in the Euro 2020 tournament and showing immense composure and maturity throughout. The young, exciting team are an inspiration to many young people. However, the racist abuse on social media that followed Sunday’s game was truly sickening.

It only goes to prove that the England players were justified in their stance to ‘take the knee’ before kick-off. The Government have a case to answer here; their dog whistles were already blowing. They facilitated the actions of those booing the team. It is too late to condemn them after the event.

UNISON will always stand shoulder to shoulder with our Black colleagues in condemning racism wherever it rears its ugly head. I urge you to read UNISON and Show Racism the Red Card’s joint statement on the vile acts that took place at the weekend.

Parliament goes into summer recess next week, and we are still waiting, along with 1.3 million NHS staff, for the Government’s green light on a pay announcement. There is not a single voice opposing a decent pay rise for NHS staff, so deserved after keeping millions of citizens safe and saving thousands of lives. In the most difficult of times, their selfless commitment must be recognised by more than a medal and applause.

Pay campaigns across the whole union are in full swing, with Higher Education branches engaged in balloting, and Local Government likely to follow. It is vital that all activists and branches encourage the wider membership to engage with consultations and campaigns. As the TUC reported this week, nearly one in five children in key worker households in the region live in poverty, which is why it is so important that we continue to campaign for decent pay across all bodies delivering public services.

I’m sure you share my concern over the current rise in Covid cases. It’s alarming that the Government seems to think that a predicted 100,000 cases a day and up to 2000 hospitalisations a day, is acceptable later this summer. Although the fantastic vaccine rollout by the NHS has led to a reduction in the number of people losing their lives to Covid, the numbers are on the rise again, with over 60 deaths in a day this week. We can only hope that the good weather will dampen down some of the worst effects.

Many UNISON members have continued working at your normal workplace throughout the pandemic, and I know some who are looking at a return to work next week with a degree of trepidation. Check out UNISON’s latest guidance on flexible working. For our disabled members, many of whom are clinically vulnerable, there is real fear over the reckless ditching of masks. The Government’s mixed messaging has lead to confusion and frustration. UNISON has been and will continue pushing for the wearing of masks to remain in place in public spaces. This is not simply a matter of individual responsibility; we have a collective and moral duty to look after each other, particularly those most at risk.

Disruption to ordinary schooling this year has been mayhem, and I’m sure that many of you will be relieved that school term comes to an end next week. Over the autumn term and this winter, there are real concerns that we may encounter new strains due to the increase in travel and wider opening of society. Once again this summer, those who may have been considering a summer holiday abroad find themselves facing so much risk. The staycation option seems like a safer and better one, so enjoy the sunshine here while it lasts!

Take care and stay safe.