Unison: Why we will always stand with the Windrush generation


UNISON Assistant General Secretary Christina McAnea announced today she is standing to be elected as the next General Secretary of the UNISON union, the largest trade union in the United Kingdom with almost 1.4 million members.

On 22 June the UK will celebrate Windrush Day, marking the moment when the Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks.

This historic moment has come to stand for the huge contribution that post-war immigrants made to the UK. It has always had a special meaning for UNISON as a union.

Workers from the Commonwealth not only helped build public services, they fought back against racism and, as they did so, they transformed our trade union movement too. It’s one of the reasons why equality and a public service ethos that serves all communities is at the heart of everything UNISON does. They are a part of the history of our union.

Windrush Day should be a day of celebration. Instead, the Windrush generation are still fighting for justice.

What happened to those caught up in the Windrush scandal was an outrage. Demeaning letters were sent out from the Home Office telling people who’d lived in the UK all their adult lives to leave. It was shabby, shameful treatment from a country that had taken the best years of their lives and relies on the public services they helped build.

They were entitled to gratitude and a peaceful life. Instead, many lost their homes, families, health and even their lives. The head of the Independent Review, Wendy Williams, identified “a culture of disbelief and carelessness….made worse by the status of the Windrush generation, who were failed when they needed help most”.

The compensation scheme should have been a way of delivering justice, making restitution and rebuilding trust. Instead, it placed victims under scrutiny, made heavy evidentiary demands, treated their claims with scepticism and placed their applications and their lives in limbo.

This is why UNISON called in December last year for the responsibility for administering the Windrush compensation scheme to be moved away from the Home Office.

This is why we are supporting the campaign to make the compensation scheme easier to navigate and for all those affected to be given a real apology.

And what’s more, UNISON stands against the ‘hostile environment’. We are public service defenders, not immigration border guards. Nor will we stand by as the government turns migrant workers into second class citizens – we will defend them as workers and equal citizens in this country, a true and fitting tribute to mark Windrush Day.

As the Windrush generation continues to fight for justice and against racism, UNISON will support them every step of the way.


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