We enter 2016 with some foreboding but with a renewed sense of mission.
There are dark clouds on the horizon with further cuts in local government planned, continued pressures on our health service and the trade union bill working its way through Parliament.
For large parts of our region, the dark clouds have not just been metaphorical but meteorological, with UNISON members in the Environment Agency, local councils, the NHS and others working tirelessly to help keep people safe and deal with the damage caused by flooding.
I think that the terrible floods we are experiencing illustrate that we are all reliant on our collective public infrastructure. We cannot as individuals or families afford to be indifferent to the capacity of our public services or our welfare system or the state of our environment. We are all vulnerable as individuals to unforeseen shocks – whether that be a flood, the loss of a job or ill health. That is why there is an enduring need for collectivism – both collective public services that we can all rely on, and collective worker organisation through our union.
I believe the willingness of people to suffer year-after-year of cuts to public services may now be close to exhaustion. The Government’s austerity agenda has been dealt a big blow due to the public’s refusal to accept cuts to tax credits or police funding. We need to keep making the case for a fairer and kinder society.
The coming months will see important local elections, perhaps an EU referendum, and our continued struggle against the trade union bill. 2015 defied prediction and we must expect the unexpected again this year. But whatever it brings, we can be confident that trade unions and public services are needed now more than ever. There is an enduring - and indeed increasing - need for collectivism.