The branch resources review working group met on 3 December to continue developing options for national delegate conference in 2021.
The results from the branch survey revealed that, first, branch officers wanted more time; second, more regional support and third, more financial support.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, work continued throughout the autumn, and the group is now at a stage of considering a long list of options to refine further, some of which are outlined below:
- updating the 2001 branch funding formula for the public service landscape in 2021;
- introducing a new regional organising fund to build on and enhance the best of the regional pool and fighting fund;
- nationwide roll-out of CaseWeb, so every branch can access it at an affordable price;
- a national procurement offer to branches for goods and services to save time and money. This could include approved lists of reliable and checked suppliers (with national UNISON discounts) for the procurement of IT equipment, office furniture and consumables, and checklists to run through before committing branch money;
- centralised and pooled conference support system. All UNISON branches invited to use a centralised and pooled booking system for their travel, accommodation and other sundries linked to UNISON rulebook conferences;
- online meetings. For example, if every national and regional lay and staff meeting held one meeting a year online, there would be a saving of approximately half a million pounds each year;
- major RMS upgrade (Merlin). This upgrade could provide an integrated system for branches, regions and UNISONdirect to use, rather than the web access RMS (WARMS) system that branches currently use;
- an online branch expenses system for treasurers to pay expenses to lay activists by BACS transfer from April 2021, meaning far fewer cheques;
- a web-based branch services hub for branch officers, with all the forms, guides, documents and links they need.
All these things still need to be assessed for feasibility and affordability, and as an overall package.
NEC committees will see more of the proposals in January 2021 and the full NEC will receive a briefing in the new year and then the final report (and motion) on 10 February, with all other national conference business.
UNISON president and chair of the working group Josie Bird said: “The work is intensive in this period, but we can report the atmosphere of collaborative and collegiate working is impressive. We are confident the group will deliver a motion to NDC 2021 that will increase support for branches.”