UNISON at 30 – celebrate good times, come on!

Thirty years ago this month, UNISON was born from the merger of three unions: Confederation of Health Service Employees (COHSE), National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) and National and Local Government Officers’ Association (NALGO).

Today UNISON is the biggest trade union in the UK with more than 1.253 million members, 75% of whom are women.

Numbers matter because numbers bring power – as we illustrated some years ago in our first TV advert. UNISON was the first trade union to advertise on TV – with the ants and the bears, which saw a bear ignoring one ant, and then two ants, before a whole crowd of ants make the bear listen and get out of the way.

With a voice over from actor James Bolam, it went on to win best commercial direction at the British Animation Awards in 1998.

Numbers also helped UNISON to introduce the national minimum wage.

It was a decades-long passion of Rodney Bickerstaffe, who was general secretary of NUPE when the merger happened, and went on to become first and associate general secretary and then general secretary of UNISON until he retired in 2001.

In the face of opposition from some other unions, UNISON made the national minimum wage a key campaign, getting it through the TUC and the Labour Party, with the Labour government introducing it in April 1999.

A month earlier, thousands had joined a UNISON march from Gateshead to Newcastle, across the Tyne Bridge, to support the new wage. It was followed by a fantastic concert that featured the likes of The Divine Comedy, Ash and Travis.

You can find out more about the national minimum wage here.

Unique among UK unions

Uniquely among UK unions, we have our own call centre to help members. UNISONDirect opened as a pilot with six staff in 1999, when it was only operational for a selected group of health branches in the London region.

In 2000, the call centre expanded across all branches and regions and now has 67 staff. It has caught the attention of unions globally and had visitors from around the world. UNISON has also helped a union in Sweden set up a similar service.

When it was originally launched, phone calls were the only method of contact, but now members can contact the centre by online forms, webchat and via My Unison, as well as by phone.

The number of contacts the centre receives is continuing to grow. In 2022, it took 331,506 contacts. In its busiest single week, the tally was 13,706.

The union also created There for You (sometimes known as UNISON Welfare), which provides confidential advice and support services for members and their families.

It arranges grants to help members meet the costs of school uniforms, winter fuel bills, wellbeing breaks and special financial assistance. There for You has also created special funds to help members in response to particular problems, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we know from testimonies, it’s been one way in which UNISON has been able to make a big difference to members’ lives.

Our legal eagles take on the law

In 2017, UNISON won a remarkable four-year legal battle against the government’s decision to introduce fees for anyone seeking an employment tribunal, which would harm workers’ access to justice.

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the government was acting unlawfully.

In fact, UNISON has a top team of lawyers that has a fantastic record of wins for members, including the 2022 Supreme Court victory that secured the same minimum level of paid annual holiday leave for all workers, no matter how many hours they work.

And on that seasonal note, we can even help you spend some of your annual leave – at UNISON’s own holiday resort on the beautiful North Devon Coast at Croyde Bay.

There are discounts for members, from 20% off to 50% off for those on low pay. The resort features a 56-room hotel, as well as self-catering cottages and summer chalet B&B rooms – and has won a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for the last three years.

Find out more about taking time out at this surfing mecca.

And this is just a tiny fraction of some of the fantastic things UNISON has done – and is doing – for our members and for public services, every day for three decades. Winning for members then – and winning for members now. And we’ll be winning for members as we embark on the next 30 years of UNISON!

The article UNISON at 30 – celebrate good times, come on! first appeared on the UNISON National site.

UNISON at 30 – celebrate good times, come on!

Thirty years ago this month, UNISON was born from the merger of three unions: Confederation of Health Service Employees (COHSE), National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) and National and Local Government Officers’ Association (NALGO).

Today UNISON is the biggest trade union in the UK with more than 1.253 million members, 75% of whom are women.

Numbers matter because numbers bring power – as we illustrated some years ago in our first TV advert. UNISON was the first trade union to advertise on TV – with the ants and the bears, which saw a bear ignoring one ant, and then two ants, before a whole crowd of ants make the bear listen and get out of the way.

With a voice over from actor James Bolam, it went on to win best commercial direction at the British Animation Awards in 1998.

Numbers also helped UNISON to introduce the national minimum wage.

It was a decades-long passion of Rodney Bickerstaffe, who was general secretary of NUPE when the merger happened, and went on to become first and associate general secretary and then general secretary of UNISON until he retired in 2001.

In the face of opposition from some other unions, UNISON made the national minimum wage a key campaign, getting it through the TUC and the Labour Party, with the Labour government introducing it in April 1999.

A month earlier, thousands had joined a UNISON march from Gateshead to Newcastle, across the Tyne Bridge, to support the new wage. It was followed by a fantastic concert that featured the likes of The Divine Comedy, Ash and Travis.

You can find out more about the national minimum wage here.

Unique among UK unions

Uniquely among UK unions, we have our own call centre to help members. UNISONDirect opened as a pilot with six staff in 1999, when it was only operational for a selected group of health branches in the London region.

In 2000, the call centre expanded across all branches and regions and now has 67 staff. It has caught the attention of unions globally and had visitors from around the world. UNISON has also helped a union in Sweden set up a similar service.

When it was originally launched, phone calls were the only method of contact, but now members can contact the centre by online forms, webchat and via My Unison, as well as by phone.

The number of contacts the centre receives is continuing to grow. In 2022, it took 331,506 contacts. In its busiest single week, the tally was 13,706.

The union also created There for You (sometimes known as UNISON Welfare), which provides confidential advice and support services for members and their families.

It arranges grants to help members meet the costs of school uniforms, winter fuel bills, wellbeing breaks and special financial assistance. There for You has also created special funds to help members in response to particular problems, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we know from testimonies, it’s been one way in which UNISON has been able to make a big difference to members’ lives.

Our legal eagles take on the law

In 2017, UNISON won a remarkable four-year legal battle against the government’s decision to introduce fees for anyone seeking an employment tribunal, which would harm workers’ access to justice.

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the government was acting unlawfully.

In fact, UNISON has a top team of lawyers that has a fantastic record of wins for members, including the 2022 Supreme Court victory that secured the same minimum level of paid annual holiday leave for all workers, no matter how many hours they work.

And on that seasonal note, we can even help you spend some of your annual leave – at UNISON’s own holiday resort on the beautiful North Devon Coast at Croyde Bay.

There are discounts for members, from 20% off to 50% off for those on low pay. The resort features a 56-room hotel, as well as self-catering cottages and summer chalet B&B rooms – and has won a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for the last three years.

Find out more about taking time out at this surfing mecca.

And this is just a tiny fraction of some of the fantastic things UNISON has done – and is doing – for our members and for public services, every day for three decades. Winning for members then – and winning for members now. And we’ll be winning for members as we embark on the next 30 years of UNISON!

The article UNISON at 30 – celebrate good times, come on! first appeared on the UNISON National site.

UNISON secures £29m in personal injury settlements for members

UNISON has secured a huge £29m in compensation for members and members’ families this year, settling just under 2,000 claims between November 2021 and November 2022. This is an increase on the £27m won on behalf of members last year.

The vast majority of these cases were work-related personal injury claims, involving accidents and injuries such as assaults at work, manual handling claims, trips and falls and needlestick injuries.

Legal officer Helen Buczynsky, who coordinates the union’s external personal injury legal service, says: “Everyone should be able to do their job safely, without risk of injury. If a UNISON member suffers harm at work, our lawyers are by their side every step of the way, giving them specialist support to seek the compensation they’re entitled to”.

Pursuing legal claims is a key part of the union’s strategy to create safer working conditions for all public sector workers.

Ms Buczynsky said: “When our members pursue a legal claim, they hold negligent employers to account and this often results in wider workplace change afterwards, making workplaces safer for everyone. The threat of legal claims is one of the most effective ways to make employers listen and make changes.”

A UNISON survey has found 65% of members who pursued a personal injury claim saw improvements made to their workplaces as a result.

The union’s lawyers provide support to thousands of members through the union’s  extensive legal assistance scheme. This year, the union also supported many members with work related disease cases, members who again suffered injury through no fault of their own including work-related stress and bullying claims, upper limb disorder cases and asbestos-related claims.

This legal support from UNISON is completely free, whether cases are won or lost. This also means that, if members are successful in their claim, they keep 100% of their damages.

On top of personal injury claims, UNISON’s legal scheme supports members with a range of legal issues, from defending themselves against work-related criminal allegations to helping members and their families with requests for wills.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Workers should never have to suffer workplace injuries. But when things do go wrong, UNISON is on their side, making sure they get the compensation they deserve.

“Every year we win millions of pounds for our members, but we also continue to campaign for safer working conditions to protect our members from harm.”

The article UNISON secures £29m in personal injury settlements for members first appeared on the UNISON National site.