May is bloomin’ magic as our wins grow

From Birmingham to Bangor, from Doncaster to Sandwell, UNISON members were winning in May – and their union was growing stronger too

It was bloomin’ lovely for UNISON in May, with fresh growth and a bevy of brilliant wins across the union.

With the union’s Go for Growth recruitment and retention campaign just finished, breath was baited. Would the figures add up?

May’s traditionally a tough month for union recruitment – in May 2018, our membership dropped by around 5,000.

This time around, though, we recruited over 15,000 new members – a 17% increase on last May, meaning we grew by just over 3,000 members for the month and that we’ve grown by over 5,500 this year so far.

Of those new members, nearly 2,500 are young members. Woohoo!

But the story of the month wasn’t only about growing – it provided loads of illustrations of what UNISON can do when we stand together.

On 1 May itself, council staff in Sandwell secured a pay rise for themselves in a dispute over grading.

The 34 workers (pictured above) had voted by 100% to begin a work to rule, but they called off the action after the council agreed to regrade them.

That’s what having loads of members in a workplace and sticking together does.

After two days of strike action, catering workers at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals won the same pay rise from their private employer, Sodexo, as had been agreed for all NHS workers last year.

Still in the first week of the month, support staff at Bangor University were also celebrating after a UNISON-organised campaign convinced management to halt plans to downgrade their pensions.

Cleaners at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow (pictured above with general secretary Dave Prentis) voted in numbers to strike against plans to outsource their jobs. They built a turnout of 84%, with 99% then backing plans for a strike.

It’s not just about pay and conditions either. The cleaning service has a fine record on infection prevention, but research shows that privatised cleaning services fare worse.

Then, in the middle of the month, Birmingham care workers won a massive victory after a struggle of almost two years.

Trying to make savings, the council had planned to slash hours and, with them, the pay of the workers (pictured below at UNISON Centre).

Over 200 low-paid care workers, 96% of them women, would have lost up to £11,000 a year as a result of the cuts.

It had taken 82 days of strike action for the council to finally reverse its damaging plans.

Recruitment was boosted too – the branch now has 95% density and eight new stewards have been recruited.

Winning all over the shop was the name of the game – UNISON also welcomed the news that the probation service in England and Wales (well, at least part of it) is to be returned to public ownership and control: the union has been at the forefront of campaigning to highlight the problems and the cost of Chris ‘Failing’ Grayling’s botched sell-off.

The whole service needs to come back in house – and our campaigning continues.

And if you want to know just how much money Mr Grayling has wasted, we’re keeping a tab.

Of course, loads of other things were going on during May. We waved farewell to Theresa May as prime minister – or at least we learned when we will be able to wave goodbye to her premiership, after she’s spent some quality time with The Donald.

The council and EU elections, bookending the month, revealed a divided country. But growing and building as a union means that UNISON is better positioned to help fight for our members and the vital services that they provide.