Sunderland members give out 3,000 gift packs to local government workers

‘We’re looking after the people who are looking after the people’

UNISON members in Sunderland have created a heartwarming support campaign for local government workers.

With 3,000 appreciation gift packs delivered to frontline workers, workplace posters and city billboards, UNISON City of Sunderland branch was determined to make sure that local government workers knew how recognised and appreciated they are.

“When the country went into lockdown, it was frightening times,” says UNISON branch secretary Diane Peacock. “A lot of people were working from home, but a lot of UNISON members still had to carry on working. We wanted to do something for them to let them know how appreciated they are.

“So we created 3,000 packed lunches with some crisps, a pot noodle, a chocolate bar and a letter of appreciation. Also some UNISON-branded gifts like hand sanitiser. The idea was for people working in the pandemic to be able to sit down with their lunch, and know there are people thinking about them and appreciate their work.”

The letter in their box speaks enthusiastically of the city’s “unsung heroes” while assuring them that the union is “working with your employer to make sure your voices are heard, and your concerns are listened to and that you have the correct equipment to keep you safe and well.”

Acknowledging the work of local government workers isn’t new to Diane’s team. Last November, her branch ran a ‘Hidden Heroes’ campaign, ensuring that all public sector workers got the recognition they deserved for supporting their communities.

Of the lockdown initiative, she continues: “My office is based at the depot where all the refuse and recycling workers are. We’d been watching them and realising they’re just not getting the credit that they deserve.

“So we wanted to do something about it. They were the first people we gave our appreciation gift packs to, and then we moved onto cleaning and catering staff in schools, and care managers and social workers.”

Diane describes how grateful local workers have been for the gift packs: “We’ve been called angels, superstars, and my colleague Howard is now known as ‘the noodle man’.

“As a team, it’s given us a purpose. If the government isn’t going to shout for the local government, then we will. We care about them, they’re important to us, and we’re here to support them.

“We’re looking after the people who are looking after the people.”

UNISON Northern Regional Secretary Clare Williams said “It’s great to see branches working in innovative ways to support and show appreciation to our members during this time. I know we have had messages on our social media thanking us for the gift packs.

There are lots of hidden workers in local government who are often not thought of as they might not be public facing, so I’m glad to see that they are getting the recognition they deserve.”