A key challenge for trade unionists in Britain is organising effective campaigns to challenge political decisions that are not made in the best interests of our members. In UNISON's Norfolk County Branch, we will run a number of campaigns at any one time – supporting local workers and residents by encouraging employers to retain buildings and services in threat of closure, and resisting the privatisation efforts that have proven to be so damaging to our services and to our economy. Currently, we are campaigning for a Living Wage in Norfolk, and we have had recent successes in preventing Norfolk County Council from selling off premises that are vital to the successful provision of Adult Education in the county.

This is a time of unprecedented challenges, but we have seen that my making efforts locally and nationally, we still have the opportunity to influence outcomes and make positive changes for our members and for the wider community in which we operate.

I am sometimes asked why international work is important when there is so much in our own country in need of attention. We must be mindful of the increasingly globalised world in which we live, and realise that the spheres of influence that impact upon our daily lives are no longer limited to the boundaries of individual countries. We are subject to European laws, and the companies that lobby our politicians are increasingly multinational operators. To retain our own influence, trade union solidarity must become an effective international movement too, and it must involve workers from all countries, religions and cultural backgrounds. By sharing our knowledge, our experience and our voices, we can have a greater impact as a unit than we could ever hope to have individually.

Those of you that follow the news will undoubtedly have seen the devastation that Typhoon Haiyan has unleashed upon the Philippines. The trade union movement in Britain contains many workers of Filipino origin, and many of those will have family member and friends who have been affected by the disaster. UNISON branches and regional offices countrywide will be actively involved in assisting with the support efforts for those affected by making donations to the aid agencies who will be taking direct action on the ground to provide help. We will also be providing assistance in the aftermath by funding projects based in the Philippines that will help local communities rebuild their infrastructure and help individuals rebuild their lives.