This is my first blog as Regional Convenor of UNISON North West. I am extremely excited to begin this role leading the largest union in our dynamic and historic region, although I do wish that the circumstances were different...
Thursday’s election results were incredibly tough to take for everyone associated with the Labour movement. I was devastated when I saw the results of the exit poll on Thursday. I know what this Tory majority will mean for our members.
5 more years of cuts to public services. 5 more years of attacks on our jobs and pensions. 5 more years of divide and rule by a Prime Minister who cares for no-one but himself.
We are approaching a decade of Tory-led governments. People are suffering and there is an urgent need for change- sadly that change was not delivered at the ballot box last week.
In the North West, we have lost some excellent representatives, including Laura Smith, Jo Platt, Gordon Marsden and many others. On behalf of our members- thank you for everything you did for public sector workers in the North West, particularly during some key disputes in recent years.
The health service is creaking after a decade of austerity, proving that you can never trust a Tory with our beloved NHS. Johnson may have undertaken a nationwide tour of hospitals in order to boost his party's NHS credentials but the most telling photograph of the campaign was that of a four-year old boy called Jack who was forced to sleep on the floor at Leeds General Hospital. Johnson blithers and blusters but nothing he says can hide the crisis facing our health service.
Despite the attacks our members working in the NHS face, we will continue to fight back. I look forward to seeing successful outcomes for all of our health service members who are currently taking part in industrial action in the North West. Thank you to all of our branches who have donated to the strike funds so far- if your branch wants to donate to ongoing disputes, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Council services have also been decimated and care services are now actually breaking down across the country with low-paid workers working long hours to support vulnerable people.
The national picture is bleak, but we owe it to our members and our communities to fight back. And it is clear that trade unions will be central to the fight against Johnson and his divisive and destructive Government. We must all do our bit to strengthen our union- not just to fight Tory cuts but to go on the offensive and win improvements for our members and communities across the North West.
Whilst Thursday was a dark night for the Labour movement, there were some monumental victories for us in the North West. UNISON activist Kim Johnson was elected as Liverpool’s first ever Black MP as she made Liverpool Riverside one of the safest Labour seats in the country. Mike Amesbury, an ex-UNISON activist held on to his seat of Weaver Vale in heroic fashion. Navendu Mishra worked closely with the local UNISON branch during his campaign and was elected as the Labour MP for Stockport. Congratulations also go to ex-UNISON North West regional convenor and now a leading light of the Labour Party- Angela Rayner, who was re-elected in Ashton-under-Lyne.
From one ex-regional convenor to another, I must pay tribute to Paula Barker. Paula was my predecessor as regional convenor and she has now been elected as Member of Parliament for Liverpool Wavertree with a thumping majority. She has been a force of nature at UNISON North West, leading and winning several disputes which have proven pivotal beyond our region and beyond our union. She, and the other UNISON MPs mentioned above, will make committed and principled representatives. UNISON's political strategy in the North West is making progress- we are campaigning to ensure that more working class people are returned to Parliament. Our members in the North West will need these MPs more than ever over the next five years.
I also want to pay tribute to Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party. The media vilified him and the sustained attacks aimed at him by the press are unprecedented. He responded with dignity, and in the face of poisonous hostility, he never took Labour’s campaign into the gutter. As leader, he transformed the Party, inspiring a new generation to engage with politics and presenting a programme that would have changed the lives of our members for the better. The very same media which vilified Jeremy Corbyn also spent years denigrating public sector workers in order to justify the Tories’ brutal austerity cuts. Jeremy was on UNISON members’ side.
We have all been hurting after the election result, but we have fought on through a decade of austerity, winning campaigns and disputes in this region and we must now redouble our efforts. We must come together to strive for a better future: to fight for public services, to win for our members and through our LabourLink work- to ensure that the hopeful vision presented in the 2017 and 2019 Labour manifestos is not discarded.
On a personal level, I look forward to working with you all as UNISON North West’s regional convenor in the coming months. I have come from UNISON’s Manchester branch, a branch with a proud history of organising and campaigning. I look forward to working with all North West branches to further progress our organising agenda.