(21 June 2017) The dismal state of the UK health care system and the lack of funding for social care under the Conservative government were among the main themes of the annual delegates’ conference of Unison. The other issue that dominated conference concerned the pay freeze for UK’s public service workers. Workers want to see an end to the pay cap and the delegates overwhelmingly voted to fight to end this cap. Pay claims have been put forward in many areas of the public sector like local governments and schools, health and social care. Organising the voice of workers remains the most power tool to express our demands.
Traditionally delegates join the international rally during Congress. It shows the work the union is doing internationally in PSI and EPSU and in projects in several countries. The EPSU General Secretary spoke about the work being done to ensure workers and citizens rights are protected and that they can remain after Brexit. The unions in Ireland and UK work together. Brexit will have a huge negative impact on the Irish economy and on Northern Ireland. EPSU, the UK unions and others continue to work for a positive view and alternative for Europe with the ETUC and social movements. He further expressed EPSU’s support for the UK unions fighting for a pay increase in all public services. He put it in the context of the ETUC Pay rise Campaign and the action of public service unions across Europe. Europe’s public service workers and their unions will stress on Public Service Day 23 June that all of Europe’s public service workers deserve a pay increase after years of austerity.
Other speakers included a representative of the Palestinian workers committee. He explained how Palestinian workers are organizing and fighting for proper rights at work with their employers. They received their first collective agreement and continue to inspire others in the occupied territories and Israel. Representatives of the Cuban health and public administration trade unions underlined their determination to fight for social justice and the independence of the country. The President of the Bangladesh Revolutionary Garments workers union explained the situation of textile workers and how a project to strengthen the union had assisted them to follow up the commitments made after the Rana Plaza incident that killed over 1100 workers.
Both at the internationally rally and at a separate meeting the EPSU General Secretary discussed with delegates the situation in Turkey. 138.000 public service workers lost their jobs under the state of emergency laws accused of being members of terrorist organisations without evidence. Media and cultural organisations have been closed. Journalists are in jail for criticizing the government. A trial against several journalists has started on the day of the rally. Two journalists from the UK committee solidarity with the people of Turkey reported on their reporting in Turkey and the problems and arrests they encountered. Unions delegates sent a powerful message of solidarity to the Turkish unions.
The Unison delegates conference took place 19-23 June 2017, Brighton.