I’ve written about my background and my somewhat ambivalent relationship with Unison in the past but today, as there is to be a widespread strike in the UK, I almost wish we had also been called out to strike alongside the teachers and the civil servants.
I’m very far from a ‘trigger happy’ union member. My default position has been to vote against any strikes called because I just want to get on with my job. Saying that, my attitude has changed over the last year or so since the election of this government and the dismantlement of the welfare state. The difference is that now, I’m angry.
Yes, I have a ‘public sector’ pension so the issue that today’s strike is about does affect me directly. I think the amount of jealousy and petty spirited hate that has been stirred up by the current government against public sector workers is distasteful in the extreme. We are portrayed as ‘fat cats’ milking the State while we depend on the poor private sector to prop us up. Oh, I might have a ‘get out’ because I could be regarded (although who knows on what definition that go) as a ‘front line worker’ but I don’t want to be patted on the head and distinguished from those who work incredibly hard to make sure that the work I do ‘at the front line’ can be carried out.
The administrative support, the IT support, the care workers (as we still have an in-house service) the emergency alarm cord operators, the library staff, the receptionists, the training department, the HR team and the accountants.
I want to know who these ‘paper pushers’ are supposed to be as most of the paper pushing happens in the executive offices or in the Houses of Parliament.
Over the last year, when we have had endless consultations about the cuts that are coming in our services and the changes that are coming to our jobs, I have seen the real value of union membership. As a member of Unison, I have attended regular meetings in our service and have gleaned a lot more information about the process than I would otherwise have had. We have been involved because the council has needed to involve us and yes, some of the shop stewards can be a bit bolshy, but that has been a very necessary characteristic in their dealing with the council.
I do wonder if BASW’s idea of a Union of Social Workers would have the same fire and resources to fight so strongly on our behalf as local authority employees. At the moment, I am very happy with Unison and the way they have supported and informed us through these difficult times.
As for today, good luck to those on strike. The issue they strike about today is also my issue but my anger is much broader than the pension issue – it is the destruction of support in society and the way that those who have least as being asked to pay.
I have learnt more in the last year about the importance of union membership than I had in the previous ten. I don’t expect to ever follow blindly but I do value my membership much much more in these uncertain times.
- Strikes: Which Workers Will Walk Out And Why (news.sky.com)
- One million public sector workers to strike this autumn over pension changes, union warns (telegraph.co.uk)