The week of Valentine’s Day is now a week of celebration within the trade union movement. Joanne Kaye writes for Heart Unions Week 2023.
Last Friday I woke up in Bristol and headed to a frosty Filton picket line. There I stood alongside striking ambulance staff. The staff who we took to our doorsteps and applauded in 2020,, the staff that spend hours outside A&E departments across our region, now stood on picket lines. It’s beyond comprehension.
But spirits were high. With every beep of a horn from passing motorists the paramedics, emergency care assistants, dispatchers and more cheered, waved their flags and felt the overwhelming support from the public for this fight.
Later I travelled to Soundwell and Easton ambulance stations where I spoke to an Emergency Care Assistant who earns £11.11 per hour, he tells me that he’s recently seen a McDonalds advert offering £11.40 per hour. It would be simple to say that people should simply “look for another job” but those standing on the picket line love their jobs, they love the work they do and the communities they look after. They don’t want a job serving fast food, they want the job they trained for.
This message is played out at picket after picket. In Exeter, Louise speaks to BBC Spotlight who poses the question to her. “You want to help people and feel good about what you’re doing. So yes, I could go out and get another job but I like this job and I like helping people.”
The picket lines are full of stories, often there’s music playing, sometimes dancing and there’s more donuts than I can count. Passers by regularly stop with boxes of chocolate, more donuts and kind, supportive words. But most importantly theres a sense of collectivism, of unity and strength that you’ll be hard pressed to beat anywhere else.
So this HeartUnions week I want to highlight the ongoing pay disputes in our union and to give you a simple task – find your nearest picket line and fall in love with the trade union movement all over again.