Promoting Political Education and Developing Activists

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Conference
2014 National Delegate Conference
Date
25 February 2014
Decision
Carried as Amended

Discussion, debate and learning from one another are both at the heart of trade union education and are central to engaging people in union activity. Debate on the history of trade union struggle and the impact of political and economic change on working people and on women and minority groups in particular has always been an important part of trade union education, and it is more important now than ever in the run up to the 2015 General Election. To defeat this coalition which has attacked public services so savagely, we need to give confidence to our members to challenge the rhetoric that there is no alternative to cuts and that we are all in this together, and to highlight the equalities impact of government policies which are disproportionately impacting on women and disadvantaged groups.

Political education is an essential part of achieving this. In UNISON this can range from debating issues such as the value of the public sector in core activist training and running short workshops such as those available to support the political education wallcharts, right through to supporting activists studying on degree courses which focus on trade union and labour movement studies.

Conference recognises the value of:

1)Work already underway in regions and branches to promote debate on austerity, including innovative education and campaign events in a number of regions making use of UNISON resources including political education workshops;

2)Linking political education to the development of new activists, including sessions targeted specifically at women and young members;

3)The development of initiatives such as the member learning workshop offer which are bringing tasters of UNISON learning, including continuing professional development, to a wider audience;

4)The extension of bursaries for activists to support them with costs associated with learning outside the fee costs.

We know however that many UNISON members do not currently access member or activist learning and therefore may miss out on opportunities to engage in informal or formal education including political education.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to work with relevant parts of the union including Labour Link to:

a)Develop further political education materials to encourage debate on the causes of austerity in the run up to the forthcoming political fund ballot and the General Election;

b)Ensure that new resources focus on the disproportionate impact of government policies on women and the least advantaged groups in society;

c)Develop a clear strategy for rolling out current and new political education resources which can also support recruitment of new members and activist development;

d)Promote the benefit of broad political education as a means of engaging new members in activity and developing new activists.

Conference calls on regions and branches to:

i)Create and make maximum use of opportunities such as branch AGMs and members meetings to make use of short workshops designed to encourage political awareness;

ii)Support the training and development of lay tutors and discussion leaders who are able to deliver short workshops and initiate discussion and debate on the origins and implications of austerity and the worth of public service.