‘Unions are very 2021’ – so let’s keep growing

Conference hears how recruitment and retention have boomed in the pandemic, and listens to examples of how it was done

Stage set for UNISON's 2021 virtual special delegate conference

“Conference is extremely proud of the growth in membership across the regions over the past year. This includes not only the high recruitment rate but importantly, the strong retention rate as well.”

That was the starting point for a motion at special delegate conference on Growing UNISON, learning the good lessons.

“Health and safety became crucial overnight … membership of trade unions became a new demand,” said Phoebe Watkins from Camden, who moved the motion for the Greater London region.

She went on to offer examples of how her branch used social media and IT to keep in contact with members – and to recruit, noting that “unions are very 2021”.

Tony Barnsley from Sandwell described plans to fire and rehire staff at local leisure centres – and how organising around the issue had doubled membership there.

For the NEC, Chris Tansley said that, at the start of the pandemic, membership numbers in our union surged.

“We’re proud to welcome every single member as together, we’re stronger”.

He said that the union had used every available platform. “The more visibility we have in the workplace, the more people will join … and stay in the union.”

And Mr Tansley noted that the next step was to “turn that new membership into activity”.

Conference called on then NEC to:

  • continue with the use of social media targeted at members and activists to share and signpost guidance and key information;
  • host regular webinars on key topics that will inform and reassure members – engaging them with their union;
  • contacting new members as soon as possible to welcome them and learn the key issues affecting them at work.