Nestled between meadows and the River Piddle in Dorset lies the village of Tolpuddle.
With no more than 500 inhabitants, it never ceases to amaze me that for one weekend every July thousands descend upon the beautiful thatched cottage-lined streets and fields of this magical little community to celebrate the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ festival.
I’ve been attending now for over 10 years and watched the event grow from strength to strength.
In a village steeped with such rich and relevant history of the trade union movement, our power to battle and stand tall against those that seek to diminish workers’ rights has never been stronger.
I have witnessed a determination and thirst from those who attend that has at times taken my breath away. The devotion and belief in our movement is a spirit that should be commended.
It is an admirable and principled ethic that has and will continue to enable us to stand strong, remain undivided and collectively battle against the freedoms we have fought so very hard to win over the years.
The strength and dedication displayed at events like Tolpuddle and the Durham Miners’ Gala embody the key to unlocking our true gift — that together we are stronger.
It is this very essence and true belief in collectivism and democracy that has tightly woven the fabric of our Unite Community into the remarkable force that it has become today.
The trade union movement has evolved, we are no longer simply recognised for workplace bargaining and organising, we only need to look at the thousands who attended the People’s Assembly Austerity march and protest in June, and again on Friday for the “No to Trump” demonstrations across the UK to see that trade unions have a far wider reach and social perspective in terms of shaping society.
Unite has opened the doors with our Community membership beyond the workplace, we do not simply campaign for workers’ rights, we also campaign for change across communities in opposing the swingeing austerity measures imposed upon the unemployed, poor, sick and most vulnerable.
A reckless Tory government has inflicted deep wounds of austerity upon us all, through dismantling our NHS, privatisation, reduced educational funding, cuts to vital public services that will all bear a scar for many years to come.
Yet there remains hope among us, the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and the left is demonstrative of our belief that change is coming — a change that will have a wide-reaching effect upon working people and the vulnerable in developing a fairer and more equal system that works for all.
Not only do Corbyn’s commitments to the rights for trade unions to collectively bargain in the workplace bolster how Labour will improve the terms and conditions of working people, but under his leadership Labour will return the NHS to the people and reverse years of underfunding, cuts and contracts going to private providers, finally ending a crippling Tory privatisation agenda.
This year marks the 70th birthday of the NHS and I for one have deep gratitude and respect for the incredible care it has provided to my family and I over the years. My three children were born into the NHS, it provided the specialist care and treatment required for my mother to undergo triple heart bypass surgery and nursed my eldest daughter back to full health following a burst appendix.
The battle is now on to sustain the NHS for the next 70 years and for as long as the people need it.
Unite has been at the forefront of defending it against Tory attacks over the years, we have run campaigns that have helped secure a long overdue pay rise for workers and extra funding for under-pressure services.
These battles are far from over, but with a Labour government we can begin to rebuild and sustain a precious system supporting the heroes of our NHS for generations to come.
Together we really do make a difference and that’s why members of Unite should be proud to be part of a union that campaigns to improve the conditions of working people, supports our community members and recognises that we have fantastic young members who will be at the heart of creating an even more dynamic trade union for the future.
Day in day out, Unite and its members are winning better pay, improving skills, caring for the public and keeping workers safe.
By getting involved you are taking a stand against the injustices we face across the workplace and our communities, and are helping to develop a fairer society with democracy at its heart.
Now is a time for all of us to unite and stand strong. It is YOU, as a member of Unite, who gives our union the voice and strength it has to move forward.
If we don’t fight, we can’t win — and Unite will fight for you every time.
Peter Hughes is regional secretary for Unite South West.
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