We’re growing and we’re winning for our members

National executive council hears positive stories as it prepares for annual conference

“We have a positive message to tell about our union as we go into conference,” UNISON’s national executive heard in London this morning.

The last regular meeting of the NEC meeting before June’s national delegate conference, received an update of the union’s Go for Growth recruitment and retention campaign, which still has just under a week to run.

May is traditionally a difficult month for union recruitment, the meeting heard: last year, the union’s membership dropped by around 5,000.

But so far this month, the union has grown by more than 3,700 members – and “as of this morning, every single one of our regions has gone into growth,” reported general secretary Dave Prentis.

He put the swing down to small but effective changes, such as phone calls to every new joiners. And contacting people who started the process of joining the union online, but dropped out without completing the move, saw 30% of them come back and finish signing up to UNISON.

The Go for Growth campaign runs until 3 June – so there’s still time for those numbers to change.

Go for Growth website

Mr Prentis had more positive stories to tell in his report to the NEC.

UNISON is proud to be a defender of our public services, which may have been forgotten while attention is focused on the drama of Brexit, said. And the union has chalked up some notable victories.

He pointed to the win by care workers in Birmingham after a year-long dispute over plans to change their shifts and cut their pay.

Read more on the Birmingham victory

It was, said Mr Prentis, “a great victory for care workers, for our members, for our regions and for the national union. It just shows what we are capable of doing as a union when we all work together.”

And in Doncaster and Bassetlaw, health workers who had been transferred to private company Sodexo successfully fought for NHS rates in a rapid victory.

Read more on Doncaster and  Bassetlaw

It is a victory that will be followed up across the country as part of a campaign to get everyone who works in the health service on NHS rates of pay, no matter who they work for, the executive heard.

UNISON has been at the forefront of the campaign to reverse the ill-conceived privatisation of the probation service in England and Wales instituted by former justice secretary Chris Grayling … and the government’s decision to bring the service back into public ownership was another victory for the union and its members, Mr Prentis added.

Read more about probation

But while the executive welcomed the positive move, it noted that there is still more that needs to be done to bring the service back to where it was before the 2014 privatisation.

The general secretary also pointed to the win by a group of council workers in Sandwell, where a 100% turn-out and vote for industrial action saw the West Midlands council agree that staff should be regraded, with higher pay.

Read more about Sandwell

It showed the power of members standing together and it showed the union’s ability to organise successful industrial action ballots, with high turnouts that vastly exceed legal minimums, in local disputes.

The national executive council agreed to send congratulations to members involved in the victories.

It also voted to send solidarity messages to members taking action, or preparing to, in other key strategic disputes, including care workers fighting cuts to the sleep-in pay at Alternative Futures Group across north-west England and hospital domestics – “the first line of defence against infection” – battling privatisation at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Essex.


As part of its preparation for next month’s national delegate conference in Liverpool, the NEC also:

  • finalised its policies on submitted motions, composite motions and amendments;
  • agreed to submit an emergency motion on plans to exclude higher and further education staff, along with those in sixth form colleges, from the local government pension scheme;
  • received an update on preparations for NDC;
  • received an update on the draft order of business;
  • endorsed the financial statement to be presented to delegates.

On top of that, the meeting also received a report on the union’s accounts for the first three months of 2019.