Saturday, 19 July 2014

My Year as a Unite Community Member...

It's almost 12 months since I decided to join a trade union. Up until that point people like myself - full time carers, the disabled, the unemployed, the self employed couldn't join a union as we did not work in the traditional unionised workplaces.

One of the most innovative, bold decisions ever made by a Union General Secretary was when Len McCluskey decided to open up Unite to the community. Len instinctively knew that people in communities were suffering under the Tory imposed austerity. He knew that  people were fighting to stop community facilities from being closed, the disabled were fighting against ATOS, carers were struggling on their £61.35pw and needed a voice to get their reasonable demand for recognition and  an increase in the paltry carers allowance, and unemployed people were suffering due to Job Centre sanctions, and many working class people were losing their homes under the Bedroom Tax.

So Unite Community was born to join up communities with workplaces and give people in the community a voice,  education through training courses , and the linguistic tools to fightback against the dark Tory forces seeking to return working class people to a bygone age.

I grabbed my chance of Unite Community membership with both hands, relishing the opportunity to play my part in changing the narrative on austerity, telling people in my community and beyond that we really do not have to take austerity on the chin, and that ordinary working class people like myself  have the power to change this government in 2015. So what have I learnt?

One of the first things I quickly found was that I am never alone. The Unite family are always there to help. I am part of Unite Community in N Wales and my community officer Jo, covers the whole country and  is always there should I have a query or require training. She has encouraged me to embark on training courses, and to have self belief  that carers like myself have a huge role to play in shaping not only our communities but also the wider national political picture. From Community Activism to Public Speaking  courses, Unite tutors have encouraged me all the way. I have used the Unite website as a useful educational resource, campaigned on various issues both online through social media and also out in the community. My self belief that I can play a part in changing things has soared and even though I have limited mobility, I have recently taken part in campaigning against job centre sanctions on a picket line and represented Unite Wales at the Durham Miners Gala - proudly holding a banner!

 Unite Community have supported me to travel to hear inspiring speeches and to learn from the likes of Ian Lavery MP, Katy Clarke MP, Tom Watson MP and many people involved in the campaigns to save our NHS from TTIP. Passing on these messages to my local community, getting more people to be involved in local campaigns and speaking out publically myself is the only real way to tackle this governments rancid policies foisted on the working class and the most vulnerable.

I know that myself and other proud Unite Community members will be instrumental in the task to get the Labour Party elected in 2015 and the upcoming months will be tough and we expect the Tories to do the only campaigning they know best : smear the Labour Party, play on the politics of fear, and talk a dirty fight. But Cameron and his cronies are up against us now; ordinary people who are equipped to not only counteract his Etonian rhetoric, but to have real knowledge and the power to change the narrative, change the mantra that for the past 4 years has set neighbour v neighbour, poor v working poor, British v Immigrant.

 There is a growing awareness and hatred in the very working class communities so despised by the Tories, that austerity, privatising our NHS, making zero hours contracts the norm, producing Generation Rent, ensuring wages are so low that working families are visiting foodbanks is what us ordinary people have to put up with in life, while the Cabinet Millionaires and the bankers get richer.

Using your vote in 2015 to vote for any party other than Labour is a complete waste! If Labour are not elected we get 5 more years of even worse Toryism as Osborne seeks to cut a further £11 billion from the likes of us. I like to tell Labour waverers ; don't think about the leader of the Labour Party, think about the policies he is implementing: stopping the Bedroom Tax, making sure our NHS remains public and stopping Camerons privatisation by stealth, part renationalising our railways, giving our kids a future with Technical Apprenticeships, giving 25 hours of free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds, putting an end to zero hours contracts and pressing employers to pay the Living Wage. Isn't that preferable to 5 more years of huge cuts, making zero hours the norm and ensuring even renting is beyond our kids dreams? That is Toryism post 2015; that is Organised Spivvery in action.

So my first year as a Unite Community member can be summed up as : exhilerating, educational, dynamic and the most wonderful aspect the Tories will shudder at: EMPOWERING. Unite have given me the tools to effect change, and enabled me to become a real activist. Isn't that something you would want to join too?

I urge anyone in the community who wants to get their voice heard, campaign for their community, feel part of a vast movement of people v austerity and this government - Join Unite Community today!¬ You also receive the same benefits as full Unite members for only 50p pw !

Unite Community Membership Information