Conference motions on organising and campaigning today focused on the challenges posed by the increasingly fragmenting public services workforce.
More and more public service workers are employed by the private sector and the community and voluntary sectors.
It is estimated that over a quarter of public service workers are currently on outsourced contracts, with the number increasing as the government steps up privatisation.
Many of these workers are on short-term or zero hours contracts, and many work for agencies.
“Often these are the most vulnerable workers, working in the most isolated workplaces,” the NEC’s Sue Highton told delegates. “Their situation goes right to the heart of equality and fairness in the workplace.
“UNISON has a responsibility towards these workers. And we need to make sure that our structures reach out to them.”
Dan Jeffrey of Lambeth branch called fragmentation “the greatest strategic challenge facing our trade union”.
He said that all branches could feel the consequences of fragmenting workforces. In his own branch, one in six members now worked outside the three core employers – 300 people across 100 employers. And a number of those organisations were “hostile” to trade unions.
Delegates agreed that organising these fragmented workers should be a priority for the union.
Discussion will take place to produce a coordinated organising plan, targetting fragmented workers and prioritising the development of new activists amongst them.
The conference also heard that new members were attracted to UNISON when it is seen to be actively campaigning against cuts and for jobs.
The union will continue to evaluate and develop the role of Fighting Fund Organisers in assisting branches to implement recruitment and retention practice alongside, and as part of “vigorous and visible campaigns against cuts in jobs and services”.