2022 – a year of watershed wins

UNISON has won some incredible victories for workers this year, from securing record-breaking pay increases to winning landmark victories in the Supreme Court

Collage of pictures of UNISON members taking action

2022 has been a challenging year for UNISON members. After a decade of wage stagnation and a pandemic that exhausted everyone, a cost of living crisis was the last thing public sector workers needed.

But yet again, UNISON members have proved that, when the going gets tough, the tough get organised. 

The union has won some incredible victories for workers over the past 12 months, from securing record-breaking pay increases to winning landmark victories in the Supreme Court. 

Here’s a reminder of some of those achievements in 2022:


In March, UNISON won a huge insourcing victory in five London hospitals. Around 1,800 cleaners, receptionists, porters, catering and security staff and others employed by Serco are to be transitioned back into NHS employment, with better pay and conditions. 

Not long after this, the union saw another key win in hospitals in Sheffield, where 120 low-paid recovery assistants were re-banded, meaning they will earn around £1,800 more each year. The pay claim was backdated to 2019, which meant every worker received significant back pay to recognise their previously undervalued work.


In one of the union’s most impressive fire-and-rehire reversals, workers at Sandwell leisure trust who had been fired and rehired managed to get their original contracts restored.

Workers on strike holding signs that read 'Pay up SLT'

Sandwell leisure trust workers on the picket line

After a dispute spanning 20 months, including industrial action during periods of lockdown, the workers won and also managed to get the services brought back under local council management. 


UNISON members won another significant hospital insourcing battle in Lanarkshire, Scotland, when the jobs of 400 workers – many held by low-paid women working part-time – were transferred from private contractor Serco to NHS Lanarkshire.

There were no job losses. Speaking at the time of the win, convener of UNISON Scotland Lilian Macer said the success put “an end to a two-tier workforce”.


The hot summer of 2022 began with refuse workers in Harlow winning an impressive pay increase worth over 9%. The employer, Veolia, initially tried to ignore UNISON, but after an overwhelming 97% of workers backed walkouts, they were forced to listen.

Refuse workers on strike in Harlow

Refuse workers on strike in Harlow

This was a massive victory considering the previous years’ pay deals included 0% in 2021 and 0.4% in 2020.

Just two days later, UNISON members in Manchester won the Living Wage Foundation’s prestigious Living Wage Campaign of the Year award after coming together to secure the Foundation Living Wage across six councils, which will transfer around £19m into the pockets of 25,000 hard-working care workers in the next year. 

July was also a huge month for UNISON’s legal team, which helped to secure a monumental Supreme Court victory for workers’ holiday rights.

Now, all workers in the UK receive the same minimum level of paid annual leave, regardless of how many weeks they work in a year.

The legal team also supported the case of UNISON member Polly Jones, which led to a landmark ruling that “participation in democracy” is a key right under the Equality Act – meaning that employers cannot discriminate against staff for political activity in their own time.


In another watershed win, thousands of healthcare assistants (HCAs) across Manchester were re-banded, receiving up to £5,000 in backdated earnings.

Healthcare workers hold up photo frame that reads 'I support a fair day's pay for our HCAs'

Healthcare workers in Manchester

This came as a result of UNISON’s six-year battle to have HCAs re-banded to recognise the clinical duties they perform.

UNISON members in Scotland won a hugely improved pay offer for all local government workers. With threats of industrial action, workers dragged employer COSLA to the negotiating table and saw the original offer of 2% rise to consolidated increases of between 5% and 10% for the vast majority of council workers.


As autumn progressed, outsourced health workers at Lancashire and South Cumbria Foundation Trust secured a pay rise of over 14%, an extra week of annual leave and the same sick pay as their colleagues who work directly for the NHS trust.

OCS workers hold a banner that reads 'Claps don't pay the bills. Key workers demand fair pay'

Workers hold a banner that reads ‘Claps don’t pay the bills. Key workers demand fair pay’

The victory came after taking 26 days of strike action over four months.

Also in October, UNISON worked alongside Unite and GMB to secure a £1,900 pay increase for police staff, 60% of whom are women. This brought the pay award into line with what police officers were given.


Between November 2021 and November 2022, UNISON secured a huge £29m in personal injury settlements for members and members’ families, settling just under 2,000. 

Christina McAnea holding petition box outside Downing Street with four UNISON members

Christina McAnea and UNISON members delivering petition to Downing Street

As the cold began to bite, the union helped secure the highest pay award offered to local government staff in over a decade. Working alongside Unite and GMB to represent the union side of the national joint council (NJC), UNISON secured a backdated deal averaging 7% that equated to a 10.5% increase for the lowest-paid workers.

Another 10.5% increase was won by UNISON members at the National Coal Mining Museum for England in Wakefield who took five days of strike action. Many of these workers are ex-miners who keep the heritage of the coal industry alive for a new generation.

General secretary Christina McAnea joined UNISON members to deliver a petition signed by 183k people to Downing Street, calling on the government to end the cost of living crisis by giving all public sector workers a decent pay rise.

The same month, UNISON’s legal team received Supreme Court permission to bring a legal challenge that could provide greater protection for striking workers.

The union is acting on behalf of care worker Fiona Mercer, who was suspended from work after taking part in a dispute over her employer’s plans to cut payments to staff working sleep-in shifts.

If successful, it could secure protection for all striking workers.


As the year wound down, the High Court granted permission for UNISON to bring a legal challenge against the government to protect the right to strike. The union will be challenging government regulations that undermine the right to strike by allowing companies to hire agency workers to cover for those taking industrial action. 

The year of 2022 has been challenging for everyone, but UNISON’s formidable victories show that the collective power of workers coming together to stand up for their dignity and rights is a force to be reckoned with.

Ms McAnea said: “UNISON’s fantastic campaigns and industrial successes in 2022 show the unrelenting power of our union.

“We’ve won hundreds of millions of pounds for our members, either through local or national campaigns, and we’ve made our mark with legal wins and political lobbying.”

And the general secretary continued: “We’ve faced a tough year with the same resolve and strength as we always do, and none of these wins could have been possible without the might of our 1.3 million members.

“As 2022 has ended in growth, I hope to welcome many more members to UNISON in 2023.”

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