Beach barbecues, feminist craft, prostitution talks and hula hooping…

Conventional and unconventional approaches to recruitment debated at women’s conference

“The union needs you” was the message from delegates at UNISON’s women’s conference in Brighton this afternoon as they debated engaging women in the union.

As part of this week’s Love UNISON campaign, Jackie Lewis from the union’s LGBT committee urged delegates to recruit and organise in order to keep the union strong. The week is part of UNISON and the TUC’s response to the Trade Union Bill which attacks union funding, facility time and campaigning ability.

The government “wants us to give in, give up and go quietly,” said Ms Lewis. “But we’re not giving in and we’re not going anywhere.”

Stella Crew from Dorset has set up a women’s group called Unwind.All sorts of members come along and socialise and campaign together. With an unconventional but “fabulous mixture” of beach barbecues, feminist craft, discussions around prostitution and hula hooping, Ms Crew reported great success in recruiting new members and new reps.

Maddy Cooper from Camden told of 300 outsourced part-time women who worked as school catering staff in Camden schools.

One of them joined the union and began organising. Over the next year 120 more women joined and four became shop stewards.

Delegates applauded as Ms Cooper announced: “They won the London Living Wage: a pay rise of 40%. They did it. Their example is how we can recruit women to our union.”