Introducing Rosita Ellis – our new regional convenor

On 12 February 2022, Rosita Ellis became the first Black woman to be elected to the most senior elected position in UNISON South East.

The UNISON South East regional council AGM this year was a little bit special. As well as the normal AGM business, we elected Rosita Ellis as our new regional convenor, the first Black woman to hold the post in the region’s history.

The convenor post is the most senior elected position in the region and Rosita takes over from her predecessor Mark Chiverton, who stepped down after many dedicated years of service to the region.

Speaking about the her election, Rosita said:

“I’m massively proud to be elected by our members as UNISON South East’s new regional convenor. It’s truly humbling for me to be the first Black woman in this role and I hope I can help inspire many more Black activists to get involved at all levels of their union.

“I have some huge shoes to fill and need to thank Mark Chiverton, who’s been a great support on my journey, especially during my time as deputy convenor.

Rosita is the chair of the Oxfordshire Health branch and works for the NHS as an equality and access commissioner. She’s been active in UNISON for over fifteen years and has held various roles in her branch and in the region, including as a steward, equality officer, and chairs the South East Black Members Committee.

Speaking about her journey from joining to elected office, Rosita said:

“I joined UNISON because a friend told me about the union after I witnessed a Black colleague being bullied by a senior manager. This made me so angry and from that day I decided I had to become more active and help defend my colleagues.

“I knew I needed to have the knowledge and tools to do this, so went on UNISON’s Organising Stewards training course. The course opened my eyes and I’m still in touch with some of the incredible people I met there. The more I found out about working together in a union the more I wanted other people to become more involved and join our movement.”

And Rosita is particularly passionate about getting more Black people involved in UNISON at all levels.

“There have been times at regional council when I have been the only Black face in the room. The South East is an amazing place to live and work. It’s vibrant, multi-ethnic and multicultural. Our towns and cities are full of diversity and influences from all around the world, and our union democracy needs to truly reflect the people we represent.

“I hope that my visibility as a Black woman, chairing meetings and speaking passionately about what I believe in, will help inspire more Black members and show we belong at the most senior levels of this organisation.”

Rosita has a long history of speaking up for people and empowering others. Her first role in the NHS was as a palliative care officer for the African-Caribbean community.

“I had just lost my aunt to cancer and I was devastated. I knew I had the skills to help other people in that position and just wanted to help. At that time, people in the community didn’t talk about cancer and I wanted to raise awareness and give people practical help during really difficult times. The NHS gave me the route to be a voice in my community who could speak up when others couldn’t.

“People in the health service do life changing work every day and it breaks my heart to see people that give so much of themselves struggling to pay their bills. I’ll be fighting for a fair pay rise for all our incredible NHS workers and promoting There For You because I’ve seen how it can be there for people when they need it most.”

Rosita knows that the convenor role won’t always be easy, but she cant wait to get stuck in and chair her first meeting.

“I just can’t wait to meet more of our members and reps from around the South East and want to say to everyone, get involved with this great union. For anyone thinking of getting active at any level, great! You won’t regret it. You’ll learn ways to fight injustice in your workplace and along your journey, you’ll meet like-minded people who’ll support you, give advice and build your confidence.

“Being part of UNISON makes you stronger. We are stronger together than we are on our own. I’ll always do my best for our members and will speak up for the rights of working people with everything I have.”