It isn’t surprising that retired union rep Len Thomas is unhappy with Mansfield MP Alan Meale’s plea for public support for UNISON’s campaign for a living wage at this particular time.
Neither appear to understand or be aware of how much trade unions have evolved over the years. When I was an elected NUPE rep for school meals worker, NUPE was mindful of the high percentage of members who were women, usually part-time and low paid and actively encouraged women to become involved in fighting for the minimum wage and improved working conditions.
As our public services were being privatised and hours and pay being cut, as users and providers we knew how we were being affected in the voluntary and private sector as well and included them in our campaigns and encouraged them to become trade union members for their own employment protection. It took time and a lot of lobbying of other trade unions, politicians and the public to recognise how much they relied on them for the services they provided. When UNISON was formed, that work was carried on and there is an increase in voluntary service and private sector membership.
While I can understand Len’s anger and disappointment at Labour having let other issues take precedent over our workers’ priorities I hope he can still find that indignation and determination to fight injustice that made him willing to be a union rep. He has made a good start here and I hope he will continue to ‘agitate’ and lobby for workers’ rights everywhere.