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Nurse elected as Unison’s first black female president


Eleanor Smith, a theatre nurse from Birmingham, has been elected president of the union Unison, becoming the first black woman to hold the office.      

Ms Smith started her nurse training at the age of 19 at George Eliot Hospital and currently works at Birmingham Women’s Hospital.

As Unison president, she said she plans to focus on equality and the government cuts.

She said: “I am proud to be president of the union as we face some of our biggest challenges. Tackling inequality in the workplace and promoting fairer access to public services has always been a priority for me, but is even more important now that Tory-led cuts are driving a wedge through local communities.

“Everyone is suffering, and women, young people, and ethnic minorities even more so as the vital public services, and jobs they rely on are being taken away.”

Her union career began in 1990 when she became a NUPE shop steward.

In 2003, following NUPE’s merger with Unison, she became Unison’s convenor for the West Midlands region. In 2004 she was elected to the National Executive Council, Unison’s ruling body, to represent the West Midlands.  

Ms Smith has been active in the union working on the Trades Union Congress race relations committee since 2005, representing Unison on the TUC general council and working as the vice-chair of the Midlands TUC. 


Readers' comments (5)

  • Whether the post holder is black or white, male or female, gay or straight or indeed disabled or able-bodied it should make no difference, she should be appointed because she is the best candidate, not because she meets a certain demographic.

    The NHS is extremely diverse, surely this appointment just reflects that diversity and I don’t understand why it is being trumpeted in the way that it is surely colour and gender are irrelevant?

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  • I think its brilliant. Go Eleanor! She is a very eloquent, hard working intelligent woman and I am sure will prove to be a strong leader. I have met Eleanor at our workplace so I guess I could be considered biased but I truly am not, she really is a lovely, person and I am sure those of you who have seen her on Midlands Today and listened to her on the radio would agree she is what she is and she says it how it is and that is high up on my list. I can only wish her well and hope we dont lose her as our 'local' rep.........

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  • I totally agree with the first commentator and fail to understand this obsessive need to point out someone's skin colour or any other personal physical attributes unless they are relevant to the job such as for sportsmen and women! I would add that as long as we continue pointing out people's social group and personal characteristics we will never be rid of stereotyping, classifications, discrimination or stigmatization instead of all working together for common goals . Fit for the job is what counts and not the colour of one's skin and I am sure that Ms Smith was chosen for her qualities which make her suitable for the job.

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  • I totally agree with the first comment. It is headlines such as; "Nurse elected as Unison’s first black female president" which could suggest reasons other than the necessary skills and talent required to do the job may be influencing her selection.
    Good luck in your new post, Eleanor.

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  • Further from Anonymous | 1-Jul-2011 9:57 pm

    we should be grateful that such a well qualified and motivated lady and nurse wishes to take on this highly challenging job which involves tackling so many complex issues.

    Congratulations and good luck.

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