Organising to Win – Building Workplace Power through Participation

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2023 National Delegate Conference
13 February 2023
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that following a period of membership decline in early 2021, UNISON fought back in the latter half of 2022 to achieve net membership growth. Record recruitment of over 180,000 new members was 30 percent above 2021 levels and exceeded even the highest surges of joiners during the 2020 Covid pandemic peak. Membership growth was disproportionally high in areas of pay campaign activity and dispute, which also saw over 4,000 UNISON members sign up to become active as a “Pay Campaign Contact”.

Conference welcomes the ground breaking tools and techniques developed through the UNISON Member Engagement Project including the “Movt” phone banking and peer to peer text platform which enabled activists and staff to make one to one contact with more members than ever before to encourage participation in campaign activity. Conference also welcomes the service group strategies and union communications which emphasised member participation and collective action as the primary means to address the biggest issues facing members.

In addition to confident national pay campaigns, 2022 saw a number of important organising pilots launched by the Organising and Recruitment Strategy Development (ORSD) project. Those pilots have seen successful Health Care Assistant re-banding campaigns deliver huge membership growth and big wins in Health branches across the union. Members and activists of target Multi Academy Trusts have been recruited and networked across branch and regional boundaries, and in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the social care pilots continue to develop techniques to organise in our most challenging growth areas of public service employment.

2022 also saw the launch of the UNISON College to draw together and offer new member learning and activist training opportunities, and the UNISON Year of the Disabled Worker saw workplace bargaining demands as the centrepiece of wider activity to recruit Disabled workers into UNISON membership and activism.

To help fund these and other initiatives, the innovative Branch Support and Organising Fund was launched with over £3.45 million ring fenced in the first year to support projects that tackle our organising challenges and grow the union.

Serious challenges remain. The numbers of members leaving the union places future growth at risk, and new activist recruitment is not currently sufficient to build and sustain a stronger and more representative activist base. Despite all the hard work, innovation, and achievements, we have not yet achieved ballot turnout to the scale required for lawful national strike action in most service groups. But despite these challenges, Conference believes 2022 was a defining year in UNISON’s journey to become an even bigger, stronger, and more powerful union. Conference believes we can build on the success of 2022 and overcome the challenges we face in 2023 and beyond with a renewed emphasis on member participation and an increased internal coherence and solidarity around key strategic priorities of the union.

During 2022 the ORSD project engaged with UNISON departments, regions, service groups, Self Organised Groups and equality groups and conducted over 100 one to one conversations with branch secretaries from across the union to identify existing best practice and key organising challenges. Resulting recommendations consider sectoral and workforce trends, organising tools, techniques and best practice, and the resource and coordination required to deliver successful organising at every level of the union. Conference welcomes the work of the ORSD project and recommendations for a comprehensive joined up organising strategy.

Conferences acknowledges consultation and implementation of initial ORSD recommendations is a process and an interim 2023 Organising Plan is required to consolidate 2022 achievements, sustain membership growth, and urgently begin to address the declining activist base.

Conference calls upon the National Executive Council to:

1)Continue roll out of the interim 2023 Organising Plan across the union and ensure service group, regional, and Self Organised Group plans are in place to meet 2023 Organising targets of:

a)One percent net membership growth (on December 31 membership);

b)Ten percent increase in recruitment to Health & Safety Reps, Union Learning Reps and Steward activist roles;

c)Activist training as set out in the National Executive Council scheme of accreditation (as revised at the 2022 National Delegate Conference);

2)Consult on initial ORSD recommendations and then resource union-wide implementation;

3)Recognise that initial recommendations are part of a longer term process, and continue to support the ORSD project to develop further recommendations to build an even bigger, stronger, and more powerful organising focused union.