Strengthening branch LGBT self-organisation

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2015 National LGBT Conference
24 July 2015

Conference notes that self-organisation is at the heart of our union. However, there can be challenges in bringing together members into self organised groups (SOGS) where the employer is dispersed over a wide geographical area, in smaller branches and employers, in multi-employer branches and in fragmented workplaces.

Working together with other branches within our towns and cities gives an opportunity to bring together the “ones and twos” into a larger cohesive group that can work together. Conference notes that the UNISON guidelines on self-organisation make specific reference to cross branch SOG organising. The guidance acknowledges that it may be more practical for members from a cluster of branches in a geographical area to establish informal networks. This also allows smaller branches to get support and guidance from bigger local branches.

The benefits of self-organisation are evident and can be a starting point for new activists to take an active role within their own branch. We have a platform to build a trained and active membership in our workplaces and communities, where we are best placed to identify and challenge discrimination and inequality. We can then work together to build strong relationships and support each other to influence policy in our communities and workplaces.

Conference acknowledges the training programme for branch lesbian, gay bisexual or transgender (LGBT) officers and the good work that this programme is achieving. There are currently 200 LGBT officers in our branches and the positive work being done by these members is welcomed. An important aspect of the role of the branch LGBT officer is to support LGBT self organisation within the branch.

But we have around 900 branches in our union – there is clearly still a long way to go to increase representation in more of our branches and our aim is to have an active SOG in every branch.

Active and democratic branch SOGs with elected representatives to the branch committee from that SOG is always the aim. Any branch SOG representative should always be accountable to their constituents.

However, where there is no branch self organised group, in the interim, self-identifying LGBT officers democratically elected are a useful stepping stone.

Conference therefore calls on the national LGBT committee to:

1. Promote the benefits of LGBT self-organisation in branches;

2. Promote the training of new officers;

3. Update existing materials on the benefits of branch SOGs and supporting LGBT reps;

4. Work with regional groups and existing officers to promote the role in branches where there is no organisation yet;

5. Work with appropriate bodies, including UNISON young members’ organisation, to train new leaders.