Organising

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Conference
2008 National Delegate Conference
Date
25 February 2008
Decision
Carried as Amended

The National Executive Council congratulates those branches and regions that have engaged in successful national and regional organising campaigns and notes that organising must remain central to the work of the union. The National Executive Council further notes that over the past five years the organising approach has led to a significant rise in the number of members joining as a result of a recommendation from a work colleague, friend or family and attributes this phenomena to the considerable improvement in the quality and delivery of services to members by branches as shown by recent UNISON research. However, it is the case that recruitment figures will see the sharpest increases when workers see the union fighting on issues such as pay and pensions. This is the experience of many branches. The trade union movement has been traditionally built on this basis. Workers are attracted to fighting, campaigning, democratic trade unions.

Conference commends those Regions making best use of the Regional Pool, established by Conference in 2001, to promote branch and regional level organising initiatives and instructs the National Executive Council to audit the use of the Regional Pool and report back to National Delegate Conference 2009 with a view to generalising good practice.

Notwithstanding these local and regional efforts there is still much for branches and regions to do to meet the organising challenge of building a public service union of two million members. Membership growth in 2007 was at a standstill and union density in most employers where we have members has been declining. Less than one in two public sector workers are members of UNISON and union members make up a majority of the workforce in less than two out of three of workplaces and almost one in ten workplaces in the public sector had no union members.

Our organising efforts also need to focus on more than increasing membership. Expanding our reps base and building effective local organisation in all workplaces is just as important. Conference therefore welcomes the proposal to launch a national campaign to recruit more reps.

Conference recognises the growing problem of declining membership participation in branch life and welcomes support from the Union Modernisation Fund to pilot twelve virtual branches to see if they are one approach to addressing this important issue.

Conference recognises the increasing workload being placed on branches, through the increasing amounts of local bargaining now required. Conference recognises that there is an urgent need for the National Executive Council to ensure that branches have the adequate financial and human resources available at local level to carry out the work.

Conference further recognises the benefits to the economy, public services and local communities of the presence of migrant workers and welcomes the allocation of funding from the Union Modernisation Fund for the recruitment and organisation of migrant workers in the public services.

Conference further welcomes the proposal from the government that the ACAS Code of Practice for Time off for Trade Union Duties and Activities should be revised and updated to consider issues around cover, workloads, the position of middle managers, access to ICT and confidentiality. Conference however does not believe that this revision should be broadened to include the rights and responsibilities of non-union workplace representatives.

Conference is also disappointed that the Government did not decide to provide distinct time-off rights for equality and environmental reps. However Conference welcomes the support from the Union Modernisation Fund that the union has received to develop the new role of equality rep and calls on the Government to revisit the issue of statutory recognition for these reps when the results of the UNISON and other union projects have been evaluated.

In addressing branch development and organising plans for the forthcoming year Conference asks regions and branches to ensure:

1)national, regional and local organising and recruitment campaigns are built into all branch activities especially where union density levels are below fifty per cent;

2)adequate resources are devoted to organising and recruitment;

3)participation in employee induction programmes;

4)use is made of new starters’ lists where the employer provides them as a simple and effective means of recruiting new employees;

5)participation in the One Step Ahead training programme to assist existing reps to develop and improve their organising skills; and

6)resources permitting, an organising plan to expand membership into all the unorganised employers where the branch has members with a view to achieving recognition.

7) retired members are recognised and utilised, as appropriate, as a recruitment resource.

Conference further believes that young workers are an important area of recruitment and organisation in order to give these often vulnerable young workers protection and to build the future of our movement.

Conference calls on the NEC to continue to work with the National Young Members Forum to develop the union’s strategy for organising and recruiting young workers.

Conference believes that the proposed expansion of public sector apprenticeships provides an important opportunity for recruitment and organisation. Conference calls on the NEC to work with the National Young Members Forum to issue guidance for regions and branches on organising these workers and highlighting the £10 membership rate for apprentices.

Conference welcomes the Protocol Agreement between the NUS and the TUC and the improvements that it is bringing for joint working between individual trade unions and student unions.

Conference believes that we must continue to strengthen our work organising both students studying for a career in public service (such as student nurses, midwives, social workers, youth & community workers) and working in public services while studying (especially when working for their own college).

Conference calls on the NEC to work with the National Young Members Forum and Service Groups to develop a cross-union strategy on recruiting and organising students.

In recognition of the fact that well-organised and supported representation and bargaining is a key factor in retaining members and persuading non-members of the relevance of trade unions, Conference urges the National Executive Council to ensure that the organising agenda includes adequate professional support for and involvement in co