This week, on the first anniversary of the UK’s first lockdown, UNITElive is featuring some of the top stories we have covered on the pandemic and our members’ contributions, concerns and achievements.
Here, we look back at the stunning success of Unite’s Southampton branch in raising money for good causes last Christmas.
Find out more in our feature below:
A fundraiser and foodbank organised by Unite’s Southampton branch, alongside local charities and organisations, raised over £3,000 in cash as well as scores of brimming food crates for Christmas.
Unite retention administrator Joe Dukes worked in a personal capacity with anti-austerity campaign group Southampton People’s Assembly against Austerity (SPAAA) in an effort to ensure that no one in their community went hungry at Christmas.
The food donations were distributed to people in need by local Christian group Southampton City Mission, which runs six food and clothes banks across the city.
“There’s been a significant increase in people needing to use the foodbanks because of the redundancies that we’re seeing across the city as a result of the pandemic,” said Joe.
“The government’s latest spending review predicts unemployment will rise further to 7.5 per cent, which means even more families will be plunged into debt and poverty over the coming months,” he added.
Thousands of food items were generously donated by passers-by, and organisers at the Southampton City Foodbank said they were overwhelmed by the generosity of the community.
Food items were collected at two different local Sainsbury’s branches and the money raised online was presented as a cheque to Southampton City Mission.
Joe, who is also chairperson of Southampton People’s Assembly said, “once again our community has shown itself to be fundamentally kind and compassionate – especially at a time of crisis.”
“It is appalling that there is need for foodbanks in the sixth wealthiest nation. The government needs to step up and do more to support the growing number of people facing destitution,” he added.
Since the launch of the emergency foodbank appeal, a second strain of Covid-19 has started to wreak havoc across Hampshire and the South Coast. Millions more people been moved into tighter tier 4 restrictions across the country as cases spiral.
“It is no longer only foodbanks facing the strain – the whole country is now in crisis. The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members,” said Joe.
“This New Year is an opportunity to do things differently. Let us all resolve to put people before profit, work collectively in the interest of each other and make 2021 a year for kindness and compassion,” he added.
Unite assistant general secretary with responsibility for Unite Community Steve Turner, hailed the tireless work of Joe and others in the Unite family –all part of the union’s hugely successful Christmas Appeal.
He urged Unite Community and industrial branches to continue doing their fantastic work.
“This year’s Unite Community Christmas appeal raised over £100,000 for families less fortunate than ourselves and I want to say a huge thank you to all of you who donated making such a difference to the lives of so many,” he said. “Poverty however, isn’t just for Christmas and with rising unemployment, attacks on wages and over 5 million people now reliant on Universal Credit, many of them in work, we can’t put our solidarity on hold simply because Christmas is over.
“We want to encourage our industrial branches to continue to build links and join actions organised by our Community members, sponsor a Unite Community branch and get involved in making our society a better, fairer place for us all. Every on-going monthly donation will help our Community members and branches to identify and support local food banks and other charities that provide a lifeline for hard pressed families.
“The consequences of the pandemic will be felt for many months to come and Unite can be very proud of the way we’ve stepped up to support our members and others who have lost their jobs or struggle to survive on low pay, and reduced hours on zero-hour contracts,” Turner continued. “While continuing to organise to win that better pay and fairer society, our on-going solidarity with those around us is what stands us out from the crowd and makes us all proud to be Unite!”
You can find out more about Unite Community here.
By Jody Whitehill