Buddying and Mentoring

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2013 National Women's Conference
16 October 2012
Carried as Amended

As National Women’s Conference is aware, UNISON is facing one of the most challenging times in our existence. One of the consequences of the job losses we are experiencing is the loss of many of our senior/experienced activists. Never has there been a more important time to encourage new women activists to come forward into active participation within the union. Women have a vital role to play in delivering the union to our members and being the face of UNISON. This Conference can be rightly proud of the work that UNISON has done to encourage women to become activists through our training programmes both at National and Regional level. It is the right time to empower women to feel that they have a place and a voice in UNISON.

In order to encourage new women to come forward into activity in the union, we need to support them by offering help and guidance. We all know the pressures and demands that women face in their everyday lives, and it is incumbent on us to ensure that we do everything in our power to show that activity within the union does not have to be another onerous demand on already busy women.

Buddying and mentoring are valuable ways of nurturing new women activists without ‘throwing them in at the deep end’ of trade union activity. It helps to allay fears about what is expected and helps women gain an understanding of various trade union roles before taking them on. By mentoring, women can be guided through trade union processes which can at first appear daunting. It is also an opportunity for those with experience at local, regional and national levels to pass on their experience and knowledge to new activists and act (in a voluntary capacity) as an aide towards the organising approach promoted by UNISON. Conference will be aware that both buddying and mentoring are advocated in UNISON’s document Developing and Supporting Workplace Reps.

Conference notes that UNISON provides a range of training courses for both buddies and mentors, details of which are in the guidance on developing and supporting workplace representatives. The guide also explains the different roles and expectations of buddies and mentors. Activists benefit from a staged approach to their development which gives them linked and key stages to work towards. It should also be recognised that both these roles need to be delivered by those who are committed to developing new talent in the union and who clearly understand what their roles and responsibilities are in helping those they support to set targets and achieve their goals, thereby developing their self esteem. It is essential that the Buddy or Mentor is capable, competent and confident.

A good Buddying and Mentoring scheme will encourage new women and young women to come forward and volunteer. It will aid succession planning and help women members gain skills within UNISON for the benefit of UNISON. It will also encourage retention and recruitment of women members.

This National Women’s Conference instructs the National Women’s Committee to:

1) Produce publicity materials that will encourage women members to come forward to become Buddies and Mentors for new women activists.

2) Work with LAOS and regional women’s networks and committees to promote the buddying and mentoring training courses more widely.