Record number of public sector workers join UNISON Cymru/Wales

A record number of public sector workers joined the UNISON Cymru/Wales union in 2022 as the cost-of-living crisis deepened and wages remained low.

More than 11,000 people joined UNISON Cymru/Wales, the largest public sector union in Wales, in 2022 which was up by 3,000 from the year before.

The union, which represents many thousands of workers across Wales, also saw its recruitment figures rise by almost 1,000 in January 2023 compared with January 2022 with more than 1,700 people joining in the last month alone.

In the six weeks to Monday February 13 a total of 2,214 additional members were recruited to UNISON Cymru/Wales.

Terry Evans, UNISON Cwm Taf local government area branch communications officer, has been a member of the union for 40 years.

Terry is a highways engineer working for Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council and said: “I have been proud to be involved in many UNISON campaigns, and in my role as a steward, represent members that were having difficulties at work.

“In addition to formal studies, UNISON has paid for me to attend short courses on web design, campaigning with social media and podcasting, which have helped me improve branch communication and have been a benefit to me personally in my hobby of music blogging.”

Claire Williams (pictured above) is an assistant manager at a care home in Ebbw Vale and recently joined UNISON Cymru/Wales after receiving an email about training courses being offered by the union.

Claire said: “I’ll be perfectly honest I didn’t know anything about UNISON before.

“I received an email about training courses UNISON were doing, so I replied to see if they could provide training in our home as we have around 80 members of staff here and it would be easier to have training courses here than get staff elsewhere.

“That was all set up then Neville Southall and Dan Parker called out to see me to introduce themselves and Unison and to see if any staff were interested in joining up.

“As everyone I had this preconceived idea of unions there for striking but when I found out they were there for other things and helpful things I decided to look into it and join up.

“I’m still new to it so haven’t used it’s full potential but look forward to in the future should I need to.”

Jane Reed (pictured above) joined UNISON in the 1990s and now works as a senior healthcare support worker in Neath Port Talbot.

Jane has attended rallies over pay and austerity as well as conferences and been on an incredible educational journey within the union over the course of the last 30 years which has seen her gain significant UNISON funded qualifications and go on to be honoured with a prestigious award.

She also received a diagnosis of dyslexia through an assessment with the help of UNISON and said: “I was able to have extra help by a specialised dyslexic tutor and I did this for a number of years on my half days.”

Jane is now education officer, lifelong learning coordinator and convenor for her branch and regularly attends regional education and training forums.

She added: “I am still working in outpatients, and I am now a senior healthcare support worker.

“I love my job and my UNISON role.”

Dominic MacAskill, regional secretary of UNISON Cymru/Wales, welcomed the latest surge in new members and said: “There has never been a more important time to be a member of a trade union as strike action increases across the UK.

“Public service workers are at breaking point after more than a decade of Tory-led austerity, wage stagnation and the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation.

“Being a member of UNISON provides workers with the power of collective bargaining for better pay and conditions while at the same time allowing for fantastic training and education opportunities and access to vital facilities such as our welfare fund.”