'This is the year of fighting back - and winning'

Unite delegate Suzanne Abachor gives impassioned speech on defending public services

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Unite delegate Suzanne Abachor spoke in support of an emergency motion on public services o the last day of TUC Congress on Thursday (October 20).

“What a shameful period in our history — in-work poverty has spread right across or public service working people, having struggled through austerity, a deadly pandemic, and now a devastating cost of living crisis,” Suzanne said.

She said that despite the Tory government chaos in recent weeks, she noted that there are two things that Tories will “always rally behind — attacking our unions and cutting our public services”.

Suzanne said she’s “lost count of the many times we have debated the Tory attacks on our services”.

“But this year is different,” she added. “This is the year of fighting back – and winning.”

“So let’s hear it for the winners Congress. Tens of thousands of workers,” Suzanne said to applause. “Let’s hear it for the bin workers of Rugby, Edinburgh, Croydon, Bexley and Newham. And let’s hear it for the victorious strikers of Coventry City Council.”

Suzanne recounted how Coventry City Council HGV bin drivers took six months of hard fought strike action and “won the double digit pay increase they deserved and the reinstatement of their shop steward”.

She also paid tribute to victorious strikes across 15 Scottish councils who won £600 million for a quarter of million workers, as well as council workers in Northern Ireland who have “already won proper pay increases”.

Suzanne moreover saluted workers who continue to fight on, and the 1000 new union members in Northern Ireland “who’ve been inspired to join the fight”.

She noted that “across the public sector, the list of wins goes on.” 

“Winning builds confidence – and that confidence is growing,” Suzanne added. “That is why over 5,000 health members across England, Wales and Scotland, including ambulance services, are balloting for targeted strike action.

“That is why they will join council workers across the country who are balloting for a proper pay rise,” she continued. “This is why we want to save public services – to put control into the hands of communities so that everyone can benefit. That means high quality public services, with enough focus on improvement and accountability. This is about making our public services better – which should be a top priority for this government.”

Telling conference that “this is no counsel of despair,” she concluded to applause, “We are fighting. We are winning. And we’re just getting started.”

By Hajera Blagg

Pic by Mark Thomas

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