Community and trade union organising for health branches

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2012 Health Care Service Group Conference
15 December 2011

Conference notes that UNISON is committed to models of reciprocal community organising and that these approaches in a health context necessarily involve seeking to forge alliances with service user and wider disability groups and social movements. UNISON should also be congratulated for the excellent booklet ‘Working with local communities to fight cuts and privatisation: a practical guide’ that was produced last year to support such organising. Arguably, the idea of community organising is of particular relevance to health branches. This is because of the special value the NHS holds within public sympathies and the opportunities for building solidarity and alliances with organised groups of NHS service users. There are also some interesting complications that arise in dealing with our relations with particular groups of patients and these merit equally specific strategic responses; for instance, mental health survivor groups, disability and post natal parenting groups.

Despite this commitment from the centre, community organising is most likely to achieve its potential by concerted action at branch level that builds upon activists’ knowledge of their local communities and organic links with community groups.

This conference calls upon the Health Service Group Executive to encourage health branches to make a concerted effort to make contact and build solidarity with community groups in their localities and identify key activists from the branch to co-ordinate this activity.

UNISON is also urged to engage with wider communities of interest to develop critical thinking about the trade union role in community organising in health and welfare contexts. This might include developing strategic thinking about organising around complex issues, such as the mental health context: where, arguably, a more nuanced approach is required which takes account of and challenges damaging public stereotypes which can impede effective solidarity.