Our organising and campaigning will be important as we work to shape change for the good of our members and communities.
The events of 2016 were certainly unpredictable. This time last year no EU referendum date had yet been announced, David Cameron was still basking in his ‘career-defining’ general election success, few foresaw that Donald J Trump was destined for the White House, and Chelsea were languishing in 14th place in the Premier League.
A lot has changed since then, but for UNISON members a lot of the negative features of this decade stay the same. Downward pressure on the living standards of working people goes on – with public service workers facing further cuts to real wages, continued insecurity and growing workload pressures. George Osborne may not be Chancellor anymore but austerity has still not come to an end - with further funding cuts planned for our public services, welfare state and schools.
Political commentators might talk about this being an era of momentous changes, but these remain hard and difficult times for workers in public services and for the communities in which we live and work.
For trade unionists, the key task remains to better organise our workplaces. Where UNISON members have the confidence of working in a well-organised workplace, where concerns can be raised with the employer and workers are treated fairly, it helps to provide some much-needed security. This year UNISON North West will be holding our ‘Skills for Strength’ organising convention on Saturday 11 March in Manchester. It is a chance for activists from across the region to share ideas, best practice and skills to help us win in the workplace, build our union and improve people’s working lives. You can register for a place at the convention here.
I am proud that UNISON in the North West is putting organising into practice through our work in the social care sector. Precarious employment, zero hours contracts, very high workloads and endemic low pay have all been features of employment in social care for too long. Care workers provide crucial services in our communities and we need to provide them with the tools and confidence they need to achieve improvements in their working lives and in the services they provide.
There will be important elections in the North West in May, with County Council elections in Cumbria and Lancashire and metro-mayor elections in the Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester. City-region-level decision-making is becoming increasingly important to people who work in and rely on public services, and the mayoral elections will give us an opportunity to promote our agenda for quality work and services with candidates – working together with community campaign groups.
2017 promises to be another busy and unpredictable year. This is a time of some political turmoil, and our organising and campaigning will be important as we work to shape change for the good of our members and communities.