Delegates stress the need to build the union through organising

Raising the union’s profile is “like joining a gym: you don’t buy your ticket and then sit around waiting to get fit”

“We need to do more … organising is not just about recruitment: it’s about building a sustainable base and raising our profile … it’s like joining a gym: you don’t buy your ticket and then sit around waiting to get fit.”

That was how Glen Williams, for the local government executive, introduced a motion on organising to the service group’s annual conference in Brighton this morning.

Local government trains more stewards than anyone else in UNISON – and yet loses more too, he stated, calling for the development of new ways to retain members and build them into activists.

“We are stronger together,” was how another speaker put it, as the importance of density and activity was stressed, time and again.

Tony Barnsley from Sandwell noted that, while difficult, given all the other demands on the time of activists, organising was crucial.

“Organising gets results,” he said, citing the example of how the branch had used it to help win a battle against council plans to have libraries staffed by just a single worker.

Margaret Greer from Hammersmith and Fulham said that, with cuts continuing, organising in the workplace would be vital to UNISON being able to “keep our hands on the pulse”.

And, she added, “the impact of organising workers … can be so liberating”.

With contributions from the national women’s committee, the national young members’ forum and the union’s LGBT group, the wide-ranging motion called on the executive to take a number of actions, including:

  • “emphasising the link between joining the union (and getting active) and increasing our collective strength, in both negotiations and action”;
  • working with the union’s self-organised groups on the issues;
  • producing more materials aimed at the workplace concerns of low-paid women;
  • sharing recruitment and organising best practice.

On a busy first morning, conference also discussed the issue of organising and representing chief officers and senior managers in local government, with delegates agreeing that, on occasion, these members needed “something different” from the union.

And on facility time, delegates urged the executive to ensure that branches facing particular problems were able to access immediate help.