Record numbers of workers are trapped in poverty, our public services are struggling to deal with the brutal legacy of austerity and our public sector workers are still not being paid what they deserve.
On a day to day basis, hundreds of workers across the region face job insecurity. Bogus self-employment, poor pay, zero-hours contracts, multiple employment and blacklisting continue, with the North East regularly being highlighted as a hot spot for some of these issues.
And on top of all of this, the chaos of Brexit has left us uncertain about what the future holds. Although we can besure of one thing, whether we leave the EU with the current deal or with no deal, workers jobs and rights are at real risk, both within the region and across the UK.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. The recent Spring Statement offered no hope and the recently announced Stronger Towns Fund will do very little to repair the damage caused by years of cuts and underinvestment in the North East, let alone protect the region from the economic implications of Brexit.
With such a backdrop, working people and the trade union movement are facing extremely challenging times. But we will not be fazed, working together to overcome inequality and achieve fairness and justice for all is what we do.
And there is no better place to see this come to life than at our regional annual conference.
This weekend 130 trade union representatives will come together from across the region to discuss and debate the current challenges faced. With a rich diversity of backgrounds and opinions, they’ll all have one thing in common, a desire to make our workplaces and communities better and fairer for everyone.
Delegates will discuss the impact of the government on public services, the damaging consequences of privatisation, the need to protect our teachers from the adverse consequences of reforms to the qualifications system and the devastating impact of school cuts on our Special Educational Needs Disability children.
They’ll discuss how accessing sanitary products should be as normal and as easy as accessing toilet roll and how terminally-ill employees must be allowed to die with dignity.
They’ll discuss the continued need to support the anti-racism education charity Show Racism the Red Card, a very timely intervention given the rise of the far right, abhorrent displays of racism at a recent England game and the recent withdrawal of funding by the Conservative led Northumberland County Council.
And, against a backdrop of increasing casualisation and zero-hours contracts, they’ll discuss the importance of decent jobs.
Over the next twelve months these discussions will be turned into action and we will see another year of the trade union movement fighting, day in and day out, for dignity, equality and justice for all.