Organising and growing our membership in private contractors

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2017 National Delegate Conference
24 February 2017
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that despite UNISON’s necessary and continued campaigns against privatisation, the outsourcing of public services continues apace. Conference completely condemns this Tory government’s relentless attack on the public sector and continues to call on the government to properly fund publically delivered services. However, whilst privatisation remains a reality, conference also recognises that the union must continue to organise and grow our membership in private contractors. Conference also notes that not all our membership in the private sector has come via TUPE from the public sector. Many of our members have never worked for a public employer or work in areas of private sector growth, like social care.

Conference welcomes last year’s rule change to establish the new National Private Contractors Forum. This forum is giving our private contractor members a real voice in UNISON and a route to engage in the democratic structures of the union. This is a unique opportunity for the union to reach out into our membership in private companies, building our power and our ability to protect these workers.

In order to make these new structures a success at all levels, the union must pull together; focusing on building capacity and activism. We recognise the huge challenges the fragmented and outsourced workforce places on branches and resources, including attacks on facility time that make our reps’ job even harder. However the union must support our reps in private contractors, and recruit and train more. Conference notes the good work that has been done so far:

1)Regional heads of private contractors in every region;

2)A new annual national training seminar for private contractor reps;

3)A new National Private Contractor Forum and several company forums.

In order to further our good work and to build our strength in private contractors, conference therefore calls on the National Executive Council to continue to prioritise the union’s activity private contractors and to work with:

a)Regions to:

i)Continue to prioritise organising in private contractors and to allocate resources;

ii)To map their private contractor membership to identify on regional targets for organising (linking with the national organising targets where appropriate);

iii)Identify and develop activists to populate and engage with the national company forums and National Private Contractors Forum;

iv)Work with branches to look at how best to group and allocate private sector members, including new models of organisation where appropriate;

v)Focus on supporting branches and members to gain recognition in private employers.

b)Branches to:

i)Identify, through the Joint Branch Assessment, key private contractors in their branch where there is the opportunity for organising and activist development;

ii)Where possible, nominate a member of the branch executive to have strategic oversight of the fragmented workforce in their branch;

iii)Engage in procurement processes to put pressure on tendering bodies to include priorities like the living wage and union recognition as conditions of transfer;

iv)Support their members in the private sectors to attend and engage with the private company forums and relevant regional structures.

c)The Private Contractors Unit to:

i)Prioritise increasing the number of companies we have national recognition with or a national relationship with;

ii)Work with all parts of the union to continue the campaign against insecure work and zero hours contracts, a real problem for workers in the private sector;

iii)Work with the Learning and Organising Services team to develop a programme of training for activists in private companies that is both relevant and accessible;

iv)Work with the Strategic Organising Unit to identify and promote a cross-section of examples of good practice in private contractor membership organisation and organising strategies.