Making it Happen

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2003 National Lesbian & Gay Conference
26 September 2003

Conference welcomes the union’s continuing commitment to developing an organising culture, and the priority being given to work aimed at increasing participation of members in union activity, at all levels, and improving workplace organisation.

Conference believes that improving workplace organisation depends on the union’s ability to recruit more members, and to attract more members to become activists – as stewards, health and safety reps, self-organised group reps and learning reps

Conference recognises that although self-organisation in the union can provide some examples of ‘best practice’ in recruiting and organising, there is still a tendency in the union to see self-organisation as peripheral to the organising agenda.

Conference believes that one of the best ways to recruit and retain members and activists is for the union to be actively working and campaigning on the issues that concern our members.

Conference celebrates the union’s campaigning work, over many years, for legislation to protect lesbian and gay members from discrimination and its role in achieving the new rights in the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations that came into effect on 1 December 2003. It welcomes the work that has been done so far on publicising, organising, bargaining and training on the new regulations

The challenge for us now is to make these new rights make a difference to the working lives of all our lesbian and gay members.

To make a real difference – to change a culture where most lesbian and gay workers still feel the need to conceal their sexual orientation in an attempt to avoid discrimination – will require every branch to be working on these issues

Every part of the union has a role to play in bringing the new rights alive. We must take the opportunity to use them as a focus for organising to increase membership, recruit new activists and build workplace organisation. This should be a priority campaign for the union.

Conference applauds those branches who support and encourage lesbian and gay members to become active in the union, but recognises there is still a long way to go in ensuring lesbian and gay members are fully involved in organising at all levels of UNISON. It further recognises that one of the issues that needs to be addressed is access to paid release for self-organised group reps and for members participation in self-organised groups

Conference therefore instructs the National Executive Council (NEC) to:

1.continue to work with the National Lesbian and Gay Committee to maximise the impact of the new rights;

2.ensure that organising to make the new rights come alive is a priority campaign for the union;

3.continue to work with regions, self-organised groups, young members organisation and service groups to ensure that the union reflects the views and aspirations of all our members, in both our bargaining and organising work;

4.ensure that self-organised groups are an integral part of its organising and recruitment strategy, and periodically review this strategy in consultation with the national self-organised committees;

5.ensure that the branch development process involves the identifying of issues key to our members at a local level and initiatives for recruiting and involving members of self-organised groups; with regions and self-organised groups to identify and circulate to branches examples of good practice in recruiting and retaining activists and in improving member participation;

7.ensure that examples of effective organising and recruiting of lesbian and gay members, and encouraging more lesbian and gay members to become stewards and other activists, are fully publicised within UNISON as part of sharing good practice;

8.ensure that its strategy and action plans for improving access to paid release for union reps, and for participation in the union, incorporate self-organised group reps and member participation in self organised groups;

9.issue updated guidance, drawing on best practice, on rights to time off and negotiating facility time.