UNISON reports 40,000 calls to members during lockdown

In three months, UNISON has already reached over 40% of the record numbers of people who have joined during lockdown

General secretary Dave Prensi phoning a new member during the COVID-19 lockdown

UNISON has made a record number of 41,000 calls to members since the lockdown began, as the union rapidly adjusted to the circumstances created by the pandemic.

In the first few days of lockdown, the union rapidly adapted its member communications plans to make sure it could still be there for members in such an unprecedented time.

It was vital members knew their union was there for them and that there would be no break in contact and support.

As well as launching the COVID-19 Response Fund and keeping all UNISON online channels updated with the latest information, over 300 staff (including UNISON secretary general Dave Prentis, pictured) were quickly trained in how to make member calls using a remote online phone banking tool.

Two initial outbound phone campaigns focussed on welcoming new members and talking to social care members about their concerns.

The welcome calls checked that people had received their UNISON welcome packs, while also signposting them to their branch and to COVID-specific resources.

The social care calls were focused on identifying issues around personal protective equipment (PPE), which UNISON then took to the government.

After three months, this represents a record number of 41,000 calls to members.

UNISON national officer Steve Loweth said: “It is a testament to the clear focus which UNISON has on its members that we were able to so quickly respond to the challenge of maintaining contact with our members and how everyone – regardless of the challenges the whole country and individuals faced – pulled together to support them.”

In that three months, UNISON has already reached over 40% of those who have joined in lockdown – and nearly 10% of its social care membership.

Calls ranged between a couple of minutes to more than half an hour. Early in the process, staff had been briefed to focus on having quality conversations with members.

Since the lockdown began, UNISON has seen a record number of new joiners. Members are more likely to stay as members if they’ve received a welcome call and the union keeps in contact, so it is hoped that these phone campaigns will help to increase retention.

Mr Loweth said: “One of the nicest things about this initiative is the enthusiasm shown by all staff – irrespective of role – and the response from members, with some calling us back to thank us for getting in touch during such a difficult time for all.

“We are now looking at how we can adapt the approach further to identify and support potential new health and safety reps and ensure workplaces remain safe for our members.”