Wednesday, March 08, 2023

International Women’s Day: Protecting Women's Right to Strike


"It’s fitting that today, 8th March, is International Women’s Day and it was also going to be one of the most important strikes in UNISON history, if the government hadn’t finally given into pressure thanks to the four days of action taken by our ambulance members and the thousands of members set to join the action. 

UNISON is the women’s union, we have over 1 million women members and women are disproportionately the lowest paid in the public sector as well as carrying out some of the most important roles. We are proud to have our first woman General Secretary, Christina McAnea, leading from the front and standing on picket lines shoulder to shoulder with these workers these past few months. 

The NHS pay dispute is about ensuring that our members, including predominantly women carrying out roles as healthcare assistants, nurses, cleaners, administrators and paramedics, can pay their bills, look after their families and be fairly paid for keeping the public safe. These women are also fighting for the NHS, for safe staffing levels and to hold the government to account. 

Instead of spending the last few months trying to resolve the dispute, the government instead launched heinous anti-strike legislation- which has only this week been condemned for failing to meet the UK’s human rights obligations. 

The legislation, enforcing minimum service levels, will disproportionately impact on Women’s rights- and as the largest women’s union, we know this all too well. Public services with a predominantly female workforce including health and education would have their rights affected by the bill.

The schools workforce is 75% women, with 89% of support staff women. In the NHS, 77% of the workforce are women and 82% are women in social care. This bill is a direct attack on UNISON members and our right to campaign for pay and better terms & conditions. 

UNISON will continue to campaign for every woman that has taken industrial action over the past few months and for their right to strike. This government can’t be allowed to continue to attack workers and the rights of women.

Abiola Kusoro - London NHS Hospital Worker


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