Effective Communication Strategies, Channels and Expertise to support UNISON activism

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2011 National LGBT Conference
20 November 2011

Conference believes that effective communication is fundamental to ensuring that the right information reaches the right people at the right time. We need to embrace both existing and new channels for information, recruitment, training, development and organising.

Communication face-to-face remains vital to inform and persuade, but as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people and communities are often dispersed or isolated, outside and even within the structures of UNISON, using print and electronic channels imaginatively, construcively and safely is vital to maintain the links between us.

Conference notes that the range of UNISON LGBT communication channels now includes the “Out in UNISON” email newsletter; the “Out in UNISON” print magazine; LGBT and general UNISON-run websites.

This Conference believes that social media, when utilised correctly, can be an amazing recruitment, organising and campaigning tool. Conference futher believes that using social media allows UNISON to engage with sections of the community that it may not otherwise interact with, such as young members.

UNISON nationally has a Facebook group and a Twitter account. Conference also notes that a number of regional LGBT groups have Facebook groups and Twitter accounts. Other channels such as SMS (Short Message Service) texts, podcasts and blogs may or could be used. These channels are put into practive by people who are keen to use them, but who may not have the expertise to approach the LGBT aspects consistently or may not recognise the implcations for members’ privacy or safety.

Conference notes that:

1.Although membership of LGBT Self Organised groups (SOGs) is only available to people self-identifying as LGBT, this does not imply that these people wish to be widely identified, either with the branch, the union or outside. LGBT members who are not out to anyone in the branch or workplace are entitled to take part in this self-organised group without jeopardising their privacy.

2. About a third of UK households have no internet access, many UNISON members have no internet access at work or none they can use in private so if UNISON circulates information by electronic mail without offering an alternative this will prevent certain members from taking part. They are likely to be concentrated among members with part-time, manual and other low-paid jobs whose under representation this self organised group wishes to overcome and, perhaps too, among retired members.

3. Some f the content of the “Out in UNISON” email newsletters would make good copy for reuse on workplace intranets, to create and maintain profile for LGBT issues even where there is no lGBT SOG.

4.The UNISON Links page on the UNISON website does not cover LGBT issues across all service areas (e.g. Education) or protected charachteristices (e.g. age, old or young) under the Equality Act, although it does not purport to be an exhaustive list of organisations.

Conference requests the national LGBT Committee to:

A.Develop and publicise strategic approaches to communications, whilst respecting individuals’, branch SOGs’ and brances’ differing needs and resources.

B.Ensure that existing official communication channels, whether LGBT focussed or not, respect the privacy and safety of LGBT members

C.Build on any existing UNISON LGBT social networking accounts, ensuring that UNISON LGBT Self Organisation has a constant presence on both Facebook and Twitter and a long term strategy exists to maintain the use of social media within UNISON’s LGBT self organisation.

D.Formulate best practive guidance for LGBT SOGs on using formal and informal, existing and new, communication channels effectively and safely, including how to deal with homophobic, biphobic and transphobic comments.

E.Encourage regional groups to circulate this guidance to branches, including those without lGBT SOGs.

F.Request the NEC issue guidance on using formal and informal, existing and new communication channels effectively and safely to create and maintain profile for lGBT and other issues;

G.Encourage training fro LGBT SOGs and branches on effective and safe communication.

HBase this guidance and training on establishing which channels of communication members prefer to use and which ones work; not which channels the union and its activists find convenient and are keen to use