- 2014 National Delegate Conference
- 1 January 2014
UNISON remains committed to and will continue to fight for public services delivered by workers directly employed on terms and conditions that have been collectively bargained by democratically accountable public bodies.
Nevertheless, Conference recognises that more and more public service workers are employed by the private sector and the community and voluntary sector.
1) In fragmented workplaces, such as academies;
2) Private homes, in the case of personalised care;
3) Or in places where there are many different employers delivering public services.
And notes that these workers increasingly find themselves employed on contracts:
a) Where they are denied access to collectively bargaining rights;
b) Or where their employment is precarious because they are:
i) On short term contracts;
ii) Or on zero hours contracts;
iii) Or work for agencies;
iv) Or are in bogus self employment.
Overall it is estimated that over a quarter of all public service workers are working on outsourced contracts; this number is increasing as government increases the level of privatisation of public services under the mask of austerity.
Conference recognises the difficulties associated with organising workers in the private, voluntary and independent sectors. Conference believes that current UNISON structures may inhibit the effective organisation of the increasingly fragmented public service workforce and that the organising these fragmented workers is a priority for UNISON and will require a change in the culture. It is increasingly difficult for members in these areas to participate in our union- they often work with employers where UNISON is not recognised and where it is difficult to get time off. Conference believes that outsourced and fragmented workers must be encouraged to play a central role in the life of the union. Our current structures do not facilitate this. However Conference acknowledges that many branches have established a multi-employer branch structure, as set out in the UNISON Code of Good Branch Practice, and provide excellent support to members in non-lead employers.
Current UNISON structures are built around employer based branches allocated to regions, and the regions largely reflect the local government provincial council areas. However the new patterns of employment no longer fit into this structure. Branches are no longer based on one employer, with the average UNISON branch representing workers employed by 26 different employers. Representatives in our core employers are increasingly prohibited from using their facility time to recruit, organise, represent and maintain members in these outsourced areas. Key branch activists also find that their own posts are under increasing pressure as a result of the government’s austerity programme. Regions frequently only have a partial picture of the extent and nature of the operation of larger private and voluntary organisations that they deal with.
There is a need for a targeted and coordinated approach focused on delivering the most effective organising in the workplace, but appreciating that the workplace will frequently comprise, not one, but many employers where UNISON should be organising. Conference recognises the role that retired members and Self-Organised groups could play in assisting the Union meet its approach.
The evidence is that organising is most effective when it is coordinated with the bargaining agenda, as in the case of Four Seasons where UNISON membership has more than doubled since UNISON got recognition.
Conference therefore agrees that UNISON should implement a system of prioritising organising that incorporates branch, regional and national priorities, whilst ensuring that the key principle of a lay member led union is maintained and strengthened. This should in the first place be done as part of an annual planning cycle so that resources can be tied to the prioritised organising campaigns. In order to ensure lay member engagement the following steps shall be taken each year:
A) Branches shall identify potential organising targets through the Joint Branch Assessment (JBA), ensuring that the wherever possible and appropriate employers other than just the main employer are targeted. As usual JBA priorities shall be signed off by the branch committee in conjunction with the region;
B) Regions shall produce a regional plan identifying region wide targets amongst employers whose operations do not cover more than one region. These priorities shall be agreed with the Regional Council;
C) Service groups shall identify areas where the bargaining agenda offers organising opportunities which cover more than one region. Overall service priorities shall then be discussed with the Joint Service Liaison Committee;
D) Discussion shall then take place at a National level bringing together regional and national priorities together with analysis from the strategic organising unit to produce a coordinated and targeted organising plan, which shall be signed off by the National Executive Council In order to ensure that we are more effective in organising the fragmented workforce, UNISON at a National and Regional level shall work together to identify new opportunities for the changing workforce to be more fully integrated into union democracy.
To be effective the plan shall:
I) Target the fragmented workforce;
II) Initially focus on the larger employers with the greatest potential for membership growth, including winning trade union recognition for UNISON where UNISON is not recognised.
III) Focus on those employers where organising and bargaining can be used in combination;
IV) Prioritise the development of new activists amongst the membership in the fragmented workforce.
V) Ensure branches are adequately supported to deliver effective local representation of members interests by stewards in each work group, within a framework agreed by the branch and encourage the participation as appropriate of retired members to meet I) and IV) above.
VI) Work with regions, branches, Service Groups and Self-Organsied groups to develop proposals for future democratic, lay-led UNISON structures and seek to ensure that these workers are no worse off than those members employed by the core employer when it comes to playing a full and active part in UNISON.