My union, Your union, Our union: encouraging engagement

Back to all Motions

2015 National LGBT Conference
18 September 2015

Conference notes that UNISON members are facing unprecedented attacks and challenges including to our pay, terms and conditions, benefits and living standards. Meanwhile we are expected to do more for less, covering unfilled and deleted posts, while services we rely on disappear and housing costs spiral.

At a time when workers need their union more than ever, the hostile Tory government has made strenuous efforts to attack and undermine our right to represent our members and effectively negotiate on their behalf. This includes attacks on facility time, on our right to take industrial action and on the union’s ability to communicate with and collect subs from our members. Despite the complete lack of evidence of any ‘problem’ to justify these attacks, the Tories are waging a clever propaganda war, aimed at making people feeling isolated and weak. They want us to believe that we are not ‘worth it’, but we’re not buying it.

Conference believes that the only response to this onslaught is to redouble our recruiting and organising efforts, bringing together the best of our tried and tested and our newer strategies. We must continue to emphasise the collective nature of our movement and our demands, but at the same time we must engage directly with individual members and potential members.

Conference welcomes the proven potential of our equality organising, including self-organisation, young members organisation and migrant workers networks, and of community campaigning. Amongst other benefits, these can bring a collective union identity to members in isolated and fragmented workplaces. For example, over the last twelve months, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) members have been staffing stalls at community events across the United Kingdom, engaging with existing members, encouraging activism and recruiting new members. Conference reaffirms its belief that “like recruits like”.

Conference acknowledges that one single way of spreading our messages will not reach all of our intended audiences. As workforces are increasingly fragmented and attacks on facility time bite, workplace union meetings are harder to organise and in some workplaces are non-existent. We need to engage with our members and potential members one to one, outside the workplace as well as in work, and online as well as face to face. We must continue and expand our use of the website, social media and other online tools, such as the UNISON app, Organising Space and Team UNISON – the online skills bank.

However, conference notes that these can only be effective if members are signed up and using them, keeping their contact information up to date. Correct membership information is also crucial because hostile governments and employers seek to exploit out of date membership data to challenge the validity of industrial action ballots.

Conference therefore welcomes the introduction and promotion of confidential sexual orientation and gender history monitoring on UNISON’s membership database, the RMS, via members’ personal point of access – My UNISON. While monitoring in isolation does not equal change, its introduction as part of UNISON’s well developed LGBT equality work sends a clear signal that the union takes its LGBT members and LGBT equality seriously. This builds on the anonymous monitoring of LGBT participation in UNISON structures, conferences and activities, such as training, that has been practiced for a number of years. This expansion of My UNISON can encourage members to update other fields on the database where data is incorrect or missing, including ethnic origin, contact details and subs information, protecting our union from hostile attacks.

Conference calls on the NEC to:

  1. Continue to advertise and promote engagement with My UNISON, encouraging members to update their personal information, including completing the new sexual orientation and gender history fields;
  2. Further develop the use of web-based tools to assist with our recruiting and organising objectives, including UNISON’s app, the Organising Space and the online skills bank, to engage new members and encourage existing members to become active;
  3. Publicise and promote examples of good practice in equality and community organising which have led to recruitment and engagement;
  4. Encourage branches, regions and service groups to involve self-organised and young members groups and migrant workers networks in developing and implementing recruitment and organising strategies.