Blog: A union that goes out to our members, rather than expecting them to come to us

On Friday I was in Edinburgh – where I saw a branch that’s experimenting and innovating as it strives to deliver better services, representation and campaigns for our members. Lothian Health Branch – ably led by Jane and Tam – are a credit to our union.

I was visiting the branch to address its (well attended) AGM, but beforehand I visited three of the hospitals covered by the branch. Each had a well-placed, visible and thriving UNISON resource centre at its heart. Each had someone for members to go to receive support from their union. And every single one helped make our union a part of the lives of our members and their workplaces.

On Friday evening, the branch went one step further with a brilliant new initiative – a mobile advice centre – which will allow UNISON to go out to our members, rather than expecting them to come to us. It’s the first of its kind in the UK, and again this is an example of a branch taking a different approach to bringing members on board. Assuming it’s successful (which I have no doubt it will be) it’s definitely something that other branches and regions could take on in future.

Making our union more accessible, as Lothian Health branch has done, means we can reach more UNISON members and gain new ones too. But it also helps get more people involved in our democracy and our campaigns, making us stronger by adding more voices to our calls for better pay, better conditions and much-needed funding for public services.

This year we celebrate 25 years of UNISON. It’ll be a time for great celebration, and an opportunity to look back on what we’ve achieved. But it’s also an opportunity to plan for the future. Lothian Health branch has so much that our union can learn from – we need them, and all of our branches, engaged in the debate about how we build a better union that works for every UNISON member.