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UNISON leadership candidate Roger McKenzie has called for the creation of a national care service and an anti-privatisation unit to protect the health sector from damaging outsourcing.
Nominees for the post of general secretary of the public services union, which has more than a million members, were surveyed by activists on how they would support black health and social-care workers if elected.
Grassroots Black Left Health Workers Group (GBL-HWG) wrote to all four candidates during the election, which closes later this month.
The candidates were asked about their plans, including what specific support they could offer to black workers and what changes could be made to the union’s structures.
Mr McKenzie, who currently serves as Unison’s assistant general secretary, promised wide-ranging action to address the disproportionate effects that the coronavirus pandemic is having on people of colour, as well as the long-standing problems facing black workers.
He said: “Black workers have had difficulty getting jobs in the public services and, if history is a good guide, black workers will bear a heavy burden in future job cuts.
“I will put in place a campaign against these job cuts and will make sure that there is a particular emphasis on the impact on black workers.
“If that does not take place, then black workers will likely face a triple whammy from the pandemic by being heavily impacted during the two waves and then by any subsequent job cuts.”
Mr McKenzie also addressed the increasing privatisation of health and social-care services and how he believes this could be reversed.
He pledged to campaign for a national care service to replace the current model, with the recruitment of 100,000 activists to help bring services into public hands.
Other contenders for the union’s top job also said that more needed to be done to tackle the way in which black communities are being disproportionately affected by conditions in their workplace, in particular in the health sector.
Christina McAnea said that she would be “very happy to support Unison working with black health groups to support initiatives,” while Hugo Pierre condemned the government’s lack of action in dealing with the inequalities facing black workers and communities.
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