Black members stress importance of building the union

Delegates discuss ways to increase engagement and encourage new activists to come forward

Vice presidents Margaret McKee and Carol Sewell joined members of the national Black members' committee to celebrate their union.

The first session of the weekend’s UNISON Black members’ conference saw delegates welcomed to the city of by Brighton and Hove by mayor Peter West, who stressed the council’s “strong commitment to diversity and equality”.

And they saw a brief presentation celebrating the life of the union’s president, Eric Roberts, who died late in 2016.

The first debates began with a vital motion from the national young members’ forum on improving the union’s work to reach young Black members.

Delegates heard that the union has at least 5,000 young Black members, yet hardly any were at conference.

It’s essential to talk to young members and find out what they need in order to help encourage them to become more involved in the union, delegates were told.

Manjula Kumari spoke on behalf of the national committee to introduce a motion on emphasising the need for organising and training.

From London, Simone McCoy also urged members to get behind recruiting and organising.

And also from the capital, Paulette Rose stressed that there are benefits to putting yourself forward as a union activist, because you learn and develop skills that it “raises your self esteem” and “it is empowering”.

“The giving of yourself … also causes you by default to be a receiver”.

• Pictured: UNISON vice presidents Margaret McKee and Carol Sewell joined members of the national Black members’ committee to celebrate their union.