Weapon and drug use ‘widespread’ among students on college premises

Violence, crime and substance misuse are now widespread across colleges, with students regularly carrying weapons and drugs or arriving intoxicated, according to new data released by UNISON today (Thursday).

Seven in ten (70%) support staff said drug abuse among students is a problem in their college, a survey conducted by the union found.

And more than a third (34%) said crime involving weapons is a concern, while almost a fifth (19%) believed gang culture is a problem at their institution.

Three in ten (31%) staff surveyed have had to deal with students who brought drugs into college and two fifths (40%) have had dealings with students who are under the influence of drugs.

Staff described routinely finding weapons such as knives and guns – real and fake – as well as machetes and hammers. Other college workers reported youngsters in possession of crossbows, blades, knuckledusters, screwdrivers, air rifles, ball-bearing (BB) guns, high-powered laser pointers and homemade weapons.

Injuries reported included a member of staff being stabbed in the back with a screwdriver and a student suffering multiple fractures and concussion, as well as bruising all over their body.

Drugs regularly found inside colleges included cannabis, cocaine, ketamine, MDMA and the so-called “zombie” drug Black Mamba, which is a synthetic cannabis.

UNISON’s research – released to coincide with the union’s annual national conference in Brighton – reveals a disturbing picture of violence and substance misuse by young people in colleges across education settings. It also reveals a wide range of weapons and drugs are being brought into colleges.

The survey is based on responses from 780 support staff – including canteen workers, learning-support assistants and librarians – working in both further education and sixth form colleges across the UK.

The data revealed half (50%) of the staff who responded were unaware of their employer’s policy on dealing with students in possession of weapons. And more than seven in ten (73%) said they had no training on how to deal with students who bring weapons or drugs into college. As a result, more than half (53%) thought incidents were not resolved appropriately.

Despite the evident risks, fewer than one in ten (9%) of survey respondents reported that their college used metal detectors, says UNISON.

College workers who said they’d had to deal with students under the influence of drugs and alcohol described young people overdosing, being too high to get through their lessons, or having seizures and hallucinations.

More than a quarter (26%) of respondents said they don’t feel physically safe at work.

Fourteen of years of underfunding have left further education colleges and sixth forms struggling to provide the education and opportunities young people deserve and need, says UNISON.

UNISON wants to see more training, and better security with searches and metal detectors to reduce violence and substance abuse in colleges.

Stricter punishments for students breaking college rules and increased staffing levels are also important ways to deal with the problems, adds the union.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Dangerous behaviour needs to be tackled to ensure students and staff are safe and colleges remain secure environments for young people to learn and thrive.

“Students who think they need to carry weapons for protection or come to college intoxicated are putting their own futures at risk.

“The tremendous strain placed on college staff means they’re forced to put safety and discipline over students’ academic development.

“College leaders must do more to ensure colleges are inspiring, safe places for all.”

Notes to editors:
– Data was gathered from 780 respondents in an online survey conducted by UNISON from 14 May to 7 June 2024.
– Experiences of survey respondents included the following:
When asked to describe incidents involving weapons:
“The most recent incident was earlier this week, where a member of support staff had a knife pulled on them.”
“A student brought in a replica gun, but when police arrived they treated it like it was a real gun. It was terrifying.”

“Staff have been threatened at knifepoint.”
“One student pulled out a machete. Another was attacked and had to be taken to hospital.”
“Knives, slingshots, and imitation guns have all been brought on site.”
“Someone brought weights from a weightlifting bench in their bag, and then used them to smash up a computer keyboard in the library.”

“Two students were fighting over an issue that started outside college and one was stabbed with a pair of scissors.”
“A learner had been carrying a five-inch blade down his sock for weeks.”
“Due to the gang culture where I work, certain places within the college have become no-go areas.”
“Our college is having to employ outside security guards on the front entrance turnstiles.”
“A student was found carrying a large kitchen knife in his bag. He told the tutor it was for protection.”
“A learner brought a sharp blade she used to self-harm on site and ‘lost’ it. It then got into the hands of someone else on campus who threatened to use it on another student.”

When asked to describe incidents involving drugs:
“A student took ketamine during a Monday morning class. They had to be taken away by ambulance and spent a few days in hospital. It was absolutely awful to witness and horrendous for the staff to deal with.”
“I regularly smell cannabis on students. But don’t feel able to confront the smokers.”

“A student left a bottle of methadone in our office.”
“It’s typically cannabis. At times in large quantities. At other times, cocaine, a bag of pills, cannabis vapes. Some keep coke or ketamine in the back of their phones.”
“One student overdosed on ketamine and had a seizure.”

– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Fatima Ayad M: 07508 080383 E: f.ayad@unison.co.uk
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: press@unison.co.uk

The article Weapon and drug use ‘widespread’ among students on college premises first appeared on the UNISON National site.

‘Our members need a Labour government’

Images: Marcus Rose

Spirits were high at UNISON’s national delegate conference in Brighton this morning as general secretary Christina McAnea delivered an invigorating speech to delegates. It focussed on the union’s power to defeat the Tories in the upcoming general election on 4 July.

Ms McAnea praised the union’s tenacity in the face of successive Conservative governments, which she described as “hell-bent on curbing workers’ rights.

“Over the last 14 years of Tory chaos and cuts – we’ve all suffered – along with the rest of the country,” Ms McAnea said. “A revolving door of clueless prime ministers and ministers making political choices that have resulted in? a cost of living crisis?and plummeting living standards.

“Over the last 14 years, the Tories have broken our public services.

“UNISON members and the services they deliver need a Labour government,” she said. “I won’t pretend that with Labour in power everything will be rosy. There will be disagreements and difficult times, but we have been part of the negotiations on their? manifesto promises. Unlike the?Tories, Labour?are listening to us.”

The general secretary described how the union’s power and influence will increase under a new Labour government. “Under Labour, we will have a place at the table. Our challenge will be to keep pushing Labour to prioritise what matters to us and our members because they know that the jobs our members do, and the services they provide, are absolutely critical if we want to live in a fair, fully-functioning and flourishing society.”

“The leading characters in the story of rebuilding our society will be NHS workers, schools support staff, council workers, police staff, environmental officers and so many more public service workers.”

“I’ve heard people say: ‘why bother? What difference will my vote make?’ We were discussing the Labour party at the last NEC meeting, and there were people there who were very cynical about Labour – and I understand that, I really do.

“But then one of our NEC members, who sits in a low-pay reserved seat, spoke up. Abiola from Greater London said, as an NEC member representing low-paid workers, her greatest fear was that she would wake up on July 5th to find the Tories are still in power.

“Years of negotiating on behalf of our members?has taught me that?we should?never let the?perfect? be the enemy of the?good.

“Whenever the Tories won a general election my mother used to cry because, like Abiola, she too was a low-paid worker all her life and she knew the Tories would do nothing for her, or for people and families like ours.

“We’ve spent the last 14 years condemning the Tories. Now it’s time to do something about it. On the 5th of July, I don’t want to wake up to multi-billionaire Rishi Sunak’s smiling face.?How can a?man who’s richer than the king, possibly?understand the devastating impact?of the cost of living crisis?on ordinary working people?

“On the 5th of July ?I want to wake up to a Labour government. To make sure: we get a national care service, a fair pay agreement for care workers, a new deal for school support staff, a government that understands the pressures on?local authorities, a government committed to rebuilding our NHS, a government committed to ending not just the gender pay gap – but a pay gap that means you earn less money because you’re black or disabled. Only Labour is committed to making these changes.”

“I promise you I will do everything I can – and use all the power of our union – to make sure they deliver on the ambitious commitments in their manifesto and go further.”

Organising to win – and growing as a result

Ms McAnea also celebrated the union’s growing membership: “In the three years I’ve been your general secretary, UNISON has had three years of growth in membership and in activists.”

So far this year, UNISON has already recruited 100,000 new members and 4,000 new activists through its Organising to Win strategy. 

Ms McAnea told delegates of how she has spent much of the last year travelling to visit members taking industrial action, including a picket line outside a school in the Shetlands, where three support staff at a school with 18 pupils had taken strike action.

“I’ve been to north and south Wales and visited branches in every region – in ambulance stations, schools, hospitals, local authorities and many other places.

“I was in Belfast, where, despite a year-long dispute over pay for public service workers, our members braved a final,?freezing cold 24-hours on strike – that forced politicians back into Stormont. 

“Change happened because our members took action.

“In Scotland we had the biggest local government strike in years?– the Scottish government and employers, as always, saying ‘there’s no more money’ – but the action our members took forced them to dig that bit deeper and find it.”

Landmark legal victories

The general secretary also commended the union’s “outstanding lawyers who have listened to members’ voices, built compelling cases and delivered legal wins in the highest courts in the land.”

One of these was the union’s landmark victory against the government on behalf of Fiona Mercer, which Ms McAnea referred to as “the most important industrial action law case for decades”, as it resulted in the Supreme Court declaring, for the first time, that the right to strike is a fundamental human right.

Ms McAnea then announced, to a standing ovation of cheering delegates, the breaking news that UNISON’s legal team had, once again, won against the government in the High Court in a case about their response to the Windrush scandal. 

After UNISON’s challenge, the court ruled that the government’s decision to scrap key recommendations from the independent review into the Windrush scandal was unlawful. 

UNISON’s application to the High Court was supported by evidence from member Michael Braithwaite, a London teaching assistant who lost his job due to the scandal, which he described as “a total nightmare that destroyed my life.” UNISON gave evidence at the judicial review over two days in late April 2023.

Palestine

Ms McAnea told conference delegates about her recent trip to the West Bank in Palestine as part of an international trade union delegation, where she met public sector workers and gained a new perspective on life for Palestinians under occupation.

“For the first time ever, all eight international union federations came together at the request of the Palestinian trade union federation.”

“I’d never been to Palestine before – but driving to Ramallah from Amman in Jordan, I saw something of the reality of life in an occupied country. Israeli forces control every border, they control all the roads, closing them and setting up road blocks where and when they please. It felt like a way to intimidate and humiliate Palestinians.

“One of the experiences that will stay long in my memory was of meeting a public sector worker from? the Jenin refugee camp? who told?me?he just wanted two things: the first was to have a night’s sleep where he wasn’t worrying about whether Israeli troops would come into the camp during the night, and secondly, he wanted a small patch of ground where he could safely play with his children.

“Such modest hopes, but ones which show how hard life is?for Palestinians.”

Ms McAnea described how often Palestinian politicians and workers spoke about South Africa. And she announced how, next month, she will be speaking at Westminster Abbey on the 30th anniversary of the end of apartheid.

“I am proud to represent our union there – and it’s fitting that South Africa still stands as an example of how profound?and peaceful?change?can emerge from? violence and oppression – even when there is deep division.”

Returning to the general election, Ms McAnea urged delegates to join her in voting for a Labour government and warned union members that “the greatest risk we face is complacency”. She concluded the speech with the words of Nelson Mandela, “It is in our hands to make a better world for all who live in it.” 

 

The article ‘Our members need a Labour government’ first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Sexual harassment and sexism rife in schools

Sexual harassment is widespread in schools with staff the target of physical advances, inappropriate comments and lewd remarks, according to findings published by UNISON today (Tuesday).

A survey conducted in collaboration with UK Feminista*, and published on the opening day of the union’s annual conference, shows one in ten (10%) female support staff in secondary schools say they’ve been sexually harassed, mainly by male pupils but also by their male colleagues.

Among staff in schools across all age ranges, the figure was 7% according to data based on the responses of more than 2,000 employees working mostly in primary and secondary education. Respondents included teaching assistants, technicians, lunchtime supervisors and administrators.

Incidents included a male student trying to kiss a female worker and pushing her head into his crotch, or boys trying to touch or slap a staff member’s bottom. In another, a headteacher told a female colleague to “stand here and look pretty, I’ll do the talking”.

Around one in seven (15%) school staff also reported they had witnessed sexual harassment in their workplace in the past five years. That figure rose to a quarter (25%) in secondary schools.

This abuse was mainly perpetrated by male pupils towards female classmates, but they also targeted female staff. Some incidents involved male staff behaving inappropriately towards their female colleagues.

However, two in five (42%) staff who witnessed abusive incidents did not report them because they felt it was ‘pointless’. Reasons given included that such incidents were ‘brushed off’ or that raising concerns could affect their careers.

Sexist online content was another significant issue highlighted in the survey. Almost a quarter of school staff (24%) had witnessed pupils discussing sexist online content. Of these employees, more than half (51%) believed they had noticed changes in pupil behaviour as a result of viewing this content. This largely took the form of sexist language and conduct from boys towards female members of staff and pupils.

A third (34%) of school staff had heard sexist language being used in school in the past five years. In addition, more than one in 14 (7%) respondents said they witnessed sexist talk at school daily. The misogynistic language reported was most often used between students, but also by staff and parents on occasion too.

One in seven (15%) respondents said sexist language had been used against them in the past five years. Use of derogatory female terms by students was reported as widespread, with female staff being subjected to sexualised, objectifying and threatening or intimidating language.

Commonly reported was the use of terms like ‘man up’ towards male students. Boys were also frequently referred to as ‘girls’ as a derogatory term when they exhibited any kind of emotional behaviour.

Additionally, there was a homophobic dimension to some of the language, with boys regularly being told certain behaviour or attitudes were ‘gay.’

Gender stereotyping had been witnessed by a quarter (25%) of respondents at their school within the past five years, with 5% witnessing it daily.

A total of 18% of respondents stated they’d personally experienced gender stereotyping within their school in the past five years.

The comments revealed this often took the form of the roles staff were expected to carry out. For men this would be manual tasks, while for women these would be caring, cleaning, and catering.

Men were seen as strong whereas women were perceived as better suited to caring roles. One female employee was asked if a ‘male’ should drive the new school minibus; and another said male staff and pupils were given ‘more respect’ while women were ‘often ignored and considered emotional’.

Commenting on the findings, UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Parents will be horrified to learn their children are being taught in such toxic environments. The danger is that language and behaviour learned at an early age stay with pupils as they become adults and go out into the wider world.

“Any male staff with such outdated attitudes need to think carefully about how they interact with colleagues and pupils. They must ditch such highly inappropriate behaviour immediately.

“But clearly schools can’t tackle this huge problem on their own. Parents have a proper role to play too. Sexist and demeaning words have no place in the modern class or staff room.

“The role of misogynist influencers cannot be overstated. A solution must be found before this worrying issue spirals out of control.”

UK Feminista’s deputy director Nina Humphries?said: “It is deeply concerning that misogyny is so normalised in schools. This fuels violence against women and girls and limits the aspirations of all young people.

“These joint survey results contribute to the abundance of evidence that sexism and sexual harassment are rife in the UK education system. Staff and students alike face this unacceptable behaviour. More must be done to make schools and colleges safer.” 

Notes to editors:
– Experiences of survey respondents included the following:
“Inappropriate sexual comments and physical advances from a male pupil, including attempting to kiss me, and pushing my head towards his genitals while I was sat down in front of him.” Learning support assistant, Hertfordshire
“Headmaster texted another staff member saying he wants to see photos of how her operation goes. She’d had breast enhancement surgery.” Teaching assistant, Wales
“I work in a primary school. A cluster of three boys who were in year 5 tried to embarrass me by talking about ‘shagging up the arse’ and asking ‘do you like cum, miss?’” Teaching assistant, Wales
“Boys pushing girls and holding them down to kiss them, playing games called ‘rape touch’, and commenting on girls’ bodies.” Teaching assistant, South East
“A teenage girl was brought to tears by her middle-aged science teacher who said it wasn’t possible to be beautiful and smart at the same time.” Science technician, East Midlands
“A male teacher didn’t think I’d know how to use a glue gun. I said I did but he asked another male teaching assistant to come into the class to show me.” Teaching assistant, Merseyside
“A female colleague was slapped by a male child on the bottom.” Teaching assistant, Yorkshire
– Click here for the full findings from the survey, which was carried out online from 20 to 29 March this year. There were 2,006 responses from school support staff who included caretakers, site managers, learning support assistants, catering staff and cleaners. Most worked in primary (49%) and secondary schools (31%) across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Others worked in nurseries (9%), special schools (8%), all-through schools which combine different stages of education (2%) and pupil referral units (1%). The majority (89%) identified as female. Of those who responded, 7% said they’d been sexually harassed.
– UNISON’s annual conferences started on Sunday and are taking place until Friday this week (21 June) at the Brighton Conference centre. Further details can be found here. The union’s general secretary is addressing the national conference on Wednesday 19 June at noon.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union and the largest union in the NHS and in the ambulance sector, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.
–*UK Feminista is an organisation working for a society in which women and girls live free from sexism and male violence. This includes working to end sexism and sexual harassment in schools and colleges, through providing training and resources to teachers and school staff.

Media contacts:
Fatima Ayad M: 07508 080383 E: f.ayad@unison.co.uk
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: press@unison.co.uk

The article Sexual harassment and sexism rife in schools first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Sexual harassment and sexism rife in schools

Sexual harassment is widespread in schools with staff the target of physical advances, inappropriate comments and lewd remarks, according to findings published by UNISON today (Tuesday).

A survey conducted in collaboration with UK Feminista*, and published on the opening day of the union’s annual conference, shows one in ten (10%) female support staff in secondary schools say they’ve been sexually harassed, mainly by male pupils but also by their male colleagues.

Among staff in schools across all age ranges, the figure was 7% according to data based on the responses of more than 2,000 employees working mostly in primary and secondary education. Respondents included teaching assistants, technicians, lunchtime supervisors and administrators.

Incidents included a male student trying to kiss a female worker and pushing her head into his crotch, or boys trying to touch or slap a staff member’s bottom. In another, a headteacher told a female colleague to “stand here and look pretty, I’ll do the talking”.

Around one in seven (15%) school staff also reported they had witnessed sexual harassment in their workplace in the past five years. That figure rose to a quarter (25%) in secondary schools.

This abuse was mainly perpetrated by male pupils towards female classmates, but they also targeted female staff. Some incidents involved male staff behaving inappropriately towards their female colleagues.

However, two in five (42%) staff who witnessed abusive incidents did not report them because they felt it was ‘pointless’. Reasons given included that such incidents were ‘brushed off’ or that raising concerns could affect their careers.

Sexist online content was another significant issue highlighted in the survey. Almost a quarter of school staff (24%) had witnessed pupils discussing sexist online content. Of these employees, more than half (51%) believed they had noticed changes in pupil behaviour as a result of viewing this content. This largely took the form of sexist language and conduct from boys towards female members of staff and pupils.

A third (34%) of school staff had heard sexist language being used in school in the past five years. In addition, more than one in 14 (7%) respondents said they witnessed sexist talk at school daily. The misogynistic language reported was most often used between students, but also by staff and parents on occasion too.

One in seven (15%) respondents said sexist language had been used against them in the past five years. Use of derogatory female terms by students was reported as widespread, with female staff being subjected to sexualised, objectifying and threatening or intimidating language.

Commonly reported was the use of terms like ‘man up’ towards male students. Boys were also frequently referred to as ‘girls’ as a derogatory term when they exhibited any kind of emotional behaviour.

Additionally, there was a homophobic dimension to some of the language, with boys regularly being told certain behaviour or attitudes were ‘gay.’

Gender stereotyping had been witnessed by a quarter (25%) of respondents at their school within the past five years, with 5% witnessing it daily.

A total of 18% of respondents stated they’d personally experienced gender stereotyping within their school in the past five years.

The comments revealed this often took the form of the roles staff were expected to carry out. For men this would be manual tasks, while for women these would be caring, cleaning, and catering.

Men were seen as strong whereas women were perceived as better suited to caring roles. One female employee was asked if a ‘male’ should drive the new school minibus; and another said male staff and pupils were given ‘more respect’ while women were ‘often ignored and considered emotional’.

Commenting on the findings, UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Parents will be horrified to learn their children are being taught in such toxic environments. The danger is that language and behaviour learned at an early age stay with pupils as they become adults and go out into the wider world.

“Any male staff with such outdated attitudes need to think carefully about how they interact with colleagues and pupils. They must ditch such highly inappropriate behaviour immediately.

“But clearly schools can’t tackle this huge problem on their own. Parents have a proper role to play too. Sexist and demeaning words have no place in the modern class or staff room.

“The role of misogynist influencers cannot be overstated. A solution must be found before this worrying issue spirals out of control.”

UK Feminista’s deputy director Nina Humphries?said: “It is deeply concerning that misogyny is so normalised in schools. This fuels violence against women and girls and limits the aspirations of all young people.

“These joint survey results contribute to the abundance of evidence that sexism and sexual harassment are rife in the UK education system. Staff and students alike face this unacceptable behaviour. More must be done to make schools and colleges safer.” 

Notes to editors:
– Experiences of survey respondents included the following:
“Inappropriate sexual comments and physical advances from a male pupil, including attempting to kiss me, and pushing my head towards his genitals while I was sat down in front of him.” Learning support assistant, Hertfordshire
“Headmaster texted another staff member saying he wants to see photos of how her operation goes. She’d had breast enhancement surgery.” Teaching assistant, Wales
“I work in a primary school. A cluster of three boys who were in year 5 tried to embarrass me by talking about ‘shagging up the arse’ and asking ‘do you like cum, miss?’” Teaching assistant, Wales
“Boys pushing girls and holding them down to kiss them, playing games called ‘rape touch’, and commenting on girls’ bodies.” Teaching assistant, South East
“A teenage girl was brought to tears by her middle-aged science teacher who said it wasn’t possible to be beautiful and smart at the same time.” Science technician, East Midlands
“A male teacher didn’t think I’d know how to use a glue gun. I said I did but he asked another male teaching assistant to come into the class to show me.” Teaching assistant, Merseyside
“A female colleague was slapped by a male child on the bottom.” Teaching assistant, Yorkshire
– Click here for the full findings from the survey, which was carried out online from 20 to 29 March this year. There were 2,006 responses from school support staff who included caretakers, site managers, learning support assistants, catering staff and cleaners. Most worked in primary (49%) and secondary schools (31%) across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Others worked in nurseries (9%), special schools (8%), all-through schools which combine different stages of education (2%) and pupil referral units (1%). The majority (89%) identified as female. Of those who responded, 7% said they’d been sexually harassed.
– UNISON’s annual conferences started on Sunday and are taking place until Friday this week (21 June) at the Brighton Conference centre. Further details can be found here. The union’s general secretary is addressing the national conference on Wednesday 19 June at noon.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union and the largest union in the NHS and in the ambulance sector, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.
–*UK Feminista is an organisation working for a society in which women and girls live free from sexism and male violence. This includes working to end sexism and sexual harassment in schools and colleges, through providing training and resources to teachers and school staff.

Media contacts:
Fatima Ayad M: 07508 080383 E: f.ayad@unison.co.uk
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: press@unison.co.uk

The article Sexual harassment and sexism rife in schools first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Opinion: Seeing the reality of life in occupied Palestine

By UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea

Travelling from Amman in Jordan to Ramallah the administrative centre of the Palestinian West Bank, as I did recently, gave me a first-hand view of the grim reality of being in an occupied territory.

I was there in the last week in May as part of an international trade union delegation, at the request of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU), pictured above.

It was the first time all eight international union federations had come together, representing over 200 million workers across 170 countries.

I was there as part of Public Services International (PSI) along with PSI general secretary Daniel Bertossa.

We all travelled in a minibus through a mountainous desert landscape, passing the Jordan River, through Jericho to Ramallah.

We saw many Israeli settlements on high ridges, distinctive because of the protected barriers and telecoms masts.

The Israeli presence is everywhere in the West Bank. It is clear that the Israeli government controls all the borders, all the roads, movement of people and goods as well as money and even the flow of water.

Roads are closed and checkpoints appear at will, making life difficult for ordinary Palestinians.

While there, we met ministers and President Abbas from the government of the Palestinian Authority run by Fatah. Gaza is controlled by Hamas.

The president was clear “we are against killing civilians, whatever their background”.

He condemned the killings on 7 October 2023 and the devastation and death toll inflicted on Gaza and in the West Bank. He asked for the trade union movement’s support in getting recognition for the State of Palestine.

I also met Palestinian workers, including those providing public service, and hearing about their daily lives and challenges had a huge impact. Workers only get paid for 2-3 days per week as there is no money for public services, while they face daily challenges in just moving around.

Everyone told stories of journeys of just a few kilometres taking hours because of Israeli checkpoints, and described the fear and worry about their families and friends in Gaza.

Everyone spoke of the need for help in rebuilding Gaza and supporting those still there.

All of the union federations are calling for an immediate and lasting ceasefire alongside increased aid.

But, daily life, of course, often comes down to simple things. I spoke to a public service worker from the Jenin refugee camp and his dream was for a night where he didn’t worry about Israeli soldiers coming into the camp and for a small patch of ground where he could play safely with his children. Such modest dreams yet so out of his reach.

On my return journey to Jordan, at the border crossing, this was once again under the scrutiny of Israeli guards – even though this is not Israel but Palestine.

I felt inspired and motivated, more than ever, to campaign and fight for justice for all Palestinians.

The article Opinion: Seeing the reality of life in occupied Palestine first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Change for local government can’t come soon enough

Fourteen years of Conservative governments have left council finances in disarray, forcing them to make cuts to vital services, says the head of the UK’s largest union today (Sunday).

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea was making the remarks earlier in a speech to open the union’s annual local government conference. The event takes place in Brighton today and tomorrow.

Christina McAnea told delegates: “Change can’t come soon enough. An increasing number of councils have issued section 114 notices – in effect, declaring bankruptcy.

“The government often claims this is down to local mismanagement, but ministers are brushing over the fact that councils of all political persuasions are struggling to balance their books.

“The government has systematically and deliberately underfunded councils for 14 years. It’s targeted lower-income Labour areas for the biggest cuts. So, it’s no surprise that places like Birmingham and Nottingham have been the worst hit.

“Recent UNISON analysis has found that children’s centre closures across England have devastated communities and left vulnerable families without access to vital education and health support.

“Similarly, huge cuts to youth services risk have created a “lost generation” of young people unable to access vital support at a crucial time in their lives.

“Despite this, council workers are doing everything they can to support the most vulnerable, educate children, and keep local communities safe and healthy. But the impact of these cuts can’t be reversed overnight.

“Local government needs more certainty, with longer-term funding settlements, so councils can plan for the future.

“The UK’s witnessed the biggest fall in living standards in generations. And recent local government pay awards haven’t been good enough.

“But bringing back the school support staff negotiating body would be a chance to finally get pay right for such a large and important group of workers.

“Union campaigns to ensure school buildings are safe and fit for purpose, and to fight for recognition of the growing threats and actual violence against school staff are critical.

“Too many staff are at risk of violence in schools. But just because some children don’t set out to be violent, it shouldn’t mean it becomes a part of the job. Everything can be risk assessed and steps taken to remove or minimise attacks as far as possible.

“When it comes to further education, it’s obvious how little ministers care about the sector. Not many Tories went to further education colleges, and not many of their children do either. But colleges are badly needed to help young people gain post-school training.

“This country needs a government that will listen to public sector workers’ concerns, and a government that will work with UNISON to improve services.

“If Labour gets elected, one of the first major domestic crises the new government will have to deal with is the fact that local authorities are on their knees.

“The essential services that keep society functioning are crumbling before our eyes.

“This country cannot afford five more years of plummeting living standards. Public services cannot afford five more years of neglect. And communities cannot afford five more years of decline and division.”

Notes to editors:
– Christina McAnea was speaking to delegates on the first day of UNISON’s two-day local government conference in Brighton. This will be followed by the union’s national conference taking place from tomorrow to Friday (17 to 21 June).
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contact:
Fatima Ayad M: 07508 080383 E: f.ayad@unison.co.uk

The article Change for local government can’t come soon enough first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Change for local government can’t come soon enough

Fourteen years of Conservative governments have left council finances in disarray, forcing them to make cuts to vital services, says the head of the UK’s largest union today (Sunday).

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea was making the remarks earlier in a speech to open the union’s annual local government conference. The event takes place in Brighton today and tomorrow.

Christina McAnea told delegates: “Change can’t come soon enough. An increasing number of councils have issued section 114 notices – in effect, declaring bankruptcy.

“The government often claims this is down to local mismanagement, but ministers are brushing over the fact that councils of all political persuasions are struggling to balance their books.

“The government has systematically and deliberately underfunded councils for 14 years. It’s targeted lower-income Labour areas for the biggest cuts. So, it’s no surprise that places like Birmingham and Nottingham have been the worst hit.

“Recent UNISON analysis has found that children’s centre closures across England have devastated communities and left vulnerable families without access to vital education and health support.

“Similarly, huge cuts to youth services risk have created a “lost generation” of young people unable to access vital support at a crucial time in their lives.

“Despite this, council workers are doing everything they can to support the most vulnerable, educate children, and keep local communities safe and healthy. But the impact of these cuts can’t be reversed overnight.

“Local government needs more certainty, with longer-term funding settlements, so councils can plan for the future.

“The UK’s witnessed the biggest fall in living standards in generations. And recent local government pay awards haven’t been good enough.

“But bringing back the school support staff negotiating body would be a chance to finally get pay right for such a large and important group of workers.

“Union campaigns to ensure school buildings are safe and fit for purpose, and to fight for recognition of the growing threats and actual violence against school staff are critical.

“Too many staff are at risk of violence in schools. But just because some children don’t set out to be violent, it shouldn’t mean it becomes a part of the job. Everything can be risk assessed and steps taken to remove or minimise attacks as far as possible.

“When it comes to further education, it’s obvious how little ministers care about the sector. Not many Tories went to further education colleges, and not many of their children do either. But colleges are badly needed to help young people gain post-school training.

“This country needs a government that will listen to public sector workers’ concerns, and a government that will work with UNISON to improve services.

“If Labour gets elected, one of the first major domestic crises the new government will have to deal with is the fact that local authorities are on their knees.

“The essential services that keep society functioning are crumbling before our eyes.

“This country cannot afford five more years of plummeting living standards. Public services cannot afford five more years of neglect. And communities cannot afford five more years of decline and division.”

Notes to editors:
– Christina McAnea was speaking to delegates on the first day of UNISON’s two-day local government conference in Brighton. This will be followed by the union’s national conference taking place from tomorrow to Friday (17 to 21 June).
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contact:
Fatima Ayad M: 07508 080383 E: f.ayad@unison.co.uk

The article Change for local government can’t come soon enough first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Labour’s manifesto offers the country real change

Commenting on the launch of the Labour manifesto today (Thursday), UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said:

“This manifesto sets out a clear plan for the future. It shows how a Labour government could rebuild a Britain broken after years of Tory austerity and chaos.

“Unlike the party that’s been in power for the past 14 years, a Labour government would be committed to public services.

“Essential services aren’t a drain on the public purse, but a driver of economic growth. The public wants good public services and they’re fed up of seeing them driven into the ground.

“People want to be able to see a GP when they’re poorly, potholes to be filled on local roads and elderly relatives to get care packages when they become too frail to look after themselves. Simple things like this have become ever-more challenging under the Conservatives.

“A fair pay agreement in social care will be the first huge step towards ending the growing crisis in the sector. A national care service will alleviate pressure on the NHS and give everyone who needs it the support they deserve.

“Labour’s manifesto is gimmick-free and full of costed measures designed to make a real difference to people’s lives at work, at school or at home.

“Solving Britain’s many problems won’t be easy. But the manifesto is an appreciation of the hard work that lies ahead. It’s high time grown-ups were back in charge of the country. And hopefully in a matter of weeks they will be.”

Notes to editors:
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: press@unison.co.ukAnthony Barnes M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk

 

The article Labour’s manifesto offers the country real change first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Christina McAnea joins solidarity mission to Palestine

Last week, UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea joined a solidarity mission to Ramallah in Palestine on behalf of public services international (PSI).

The Council of Global Unions solidarity mission marks the first time such a large and high-level group of union leaders have convened in Palestine. The visit comes amid mounting international condemnation over the ongoing killing and mass displacement of civilians in Gaza and the worsening repression in the West Bank.

The visit underlined the global labour movement’s support for an urgent ceasefire in Gaza and a free, sovereign Palestinian state alongside Israel.

PSI’s Palestinian affiliates taking part in the visit expressed concern over the extreme economic hardship experienced in Gaza and the West Bank, where many government workers are receiving half or no salary due to the government of Israel withholding customs revenue from the Palestinian Authority.

The unions also highlighted the problem of the Israeli government controlling access to work permits and the widespread use of exploitative labour brokers who take up to 50% of Palestinian wages to provide a work permit.The Israel government’s withdrawal of tens of thousands of permits for Palestinian workers has led to increased unemployment and poverty in the West Bank.

In a recent short film produced by PSI, the General Trade Union of Health Workers in Gaza and the Public Services Union shared their struggle to maintain health provision in Gaza under increasingly difficult circumstances. But PSI has now reported that it has lost contact with comrades from these organisations who are sheltering in Rafah as bombardments continue.

Last week, the delegation released a co-authored statement signed by the Council of Global Unions carrying an important message of solidarity to the workers of the region. Affiliates from across the region emphasised the need for: 

  • Permanent ceasefire and end to the ongoing aggression against the Gaza Strip 
  • Involvement of the PSI National Coordination Committee in Gaza in any action or relief plan, as the sectors destroyed in the Gaza war are mostly public service sectors
  • Increased pressure on developed countries that suspended their support for the UNRWA to retract their decision 
  • Providing medical and humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip and urgent protection for medical teams.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The relentless bombardment of Gaza over the last eight months has claimed tens of thousands of lives, displaced most, and reduced entire neighbourhoods to rubble.

“Gaza needs a ceasefire now if there is to be any hope of peace, justice and a viable Palestinian state.

“Everything I saw and heard in the West Bank reinforced the need for an immediate end to the current hostilities and the 57-year occupation, which has denied Palestinians access to decent work, public services and other fundamental rights.”

The article Christina McAnea joins solidarity mission to Palestine first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Christina McAnea joins solidarity mission to Palestine

Last week, UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea joined a solidarity mission to Ramallah in Palestine on behalf of public services international (PSI).

The Council of Global Unions solidarity mission marks the first time such a large and high-level group of union leaders have convened in Palestine. The visit comes amid mounting international condemnation over the ongoing killing and mass displacement of civilians in Gaza and the worsening repression in the West Bank.

The visit underlined the global labour movement’s support for an urgent ceasefire in Gaza and a free, sovereign Palestinian state alongside Israel.

PSI’s Palestinian affiliates taking part in the visit expressed concern over the extreme economic hardship experienced in Gaza and the West Bank, where many government workers are receiving half or no salary due to the government of Israel withholding customs revenue from the Palestinian Authority.

The unions also highlighted the problem of the Israeli government controlling access to work permits and the widespread use of exploitative labour brokers who take up to 50% of Palestinian wages to provide a work permit.The Israel government’s withdrawal of tens of thousands of permits for Palestinian workers has led to increased unemployment and poverty in the West Bank.

In a recent short film produced by PSI, the General Trade Union of Health Workers in Gaza and the Public Services Union shared their struggle to maintain health provision in Gaza under increasingly difficult circumstances. But PSI has now reported that it has lost contact with comrades from these organisations who are sheltering in Rafah as bombardments continue.

Last week, the delegation released a co-authored statement signed by the Council of Global Unions carrying an important message of solidarity to the workers of the region. Affiliates from across the region emphasised the need for: 

  • Permanent ceasefire and end to the ongoing aggression against the Gaza Strip 
  • Involvement of the PSI National Coordination Committee in Gaza in any action or relief plan, as the sectors destroyed in the Gaza war are mostly public service sectors
  • Increased pressure on developed countries that suspended their support for the UNRWA to retract their decision 
  • Providing medical and humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip and urgent protection for medical teams.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The relentless bombardment of Gaza over the last eight months has claimed tens of thousands of lives, displaced most, and reduced entire neighbourhoods to rubble.

“Gaza needs a ceasefire now if there is to be any hope of peace, justice and a viable Palestinian state.

“Everything I saw and heard in the West Bank reinforced the need for an immediate end to the current hostilities and the 57-year occupation, which has denied Palestinians access to decent work, public services and other fundamental rights.”

The article Christina McAnea joins solidarity mission to Palestine first appeared on the UNISON National site.