Setting up shop

A new kind of UNISON office is adding an extra dimension to the union’s organising

New ‘shopfront’ style UNISON resource centres offer a new way of organising and making the union visible in local communities, general secretary Dave Prentis declared as he opened two such ventures in Glasgow and Northumberland.

The Northumberland office, in Station Road, Ashington Town, is a new initiative for the union’s Northern region, with three of its branches covering both health and local government members working together to open the new shop.

Unveiling the office in August, Mr Prentis said: “This is a fantastic asset – a place where UNISON members can join up, get advice and support and report problems.

“It’s one of a number of new, shop-style branch offices across the UK that are helping to make UNISON more visible in the community. At a time when this government is trying to isolate unions and make organising in the workplace more difficult, it is more important than ever that we are seen as part of the local community – open and accessible to all.”

Opening the office alongside branch and regional activists, convenor Clare Williams and local MP Ian Lavery, Mr Prentis said that this was another example of the union’s capacity to change and develop new ways of organising, which would help UNISON “win our fight against this Tory government and ensure our union grows even stronger.”

Ms Williams pointed out that that the three branches involved – Northumberland Local Government, Northumbria Healthcare and Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust – were spread across a vast geographical area. “This venture will enable our members and activists to have a central location in Northumberland which is welcoming and accessible”.

Glasgow shop

And UNISON has a similar new presence in Glasgow (above), namely a shop at the heart of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

One of the largest acute hospitals in the UK, the hospital covers 14 floors. The atrium of the main building houses retail shops and a coffee shop – and now it also hosts a dedicated ‘shop front’ UNISON resource centre.

Mr Prentis and the union’s head of health Christina McAnea travelled to Glasgow to open the new union shop and meet some of the members.

The Queen Elizabeth and adjacent Royal Hospital for Children are part of a new South Glasgow Hospitals development, which was officially opened in July. The size of the new hospital campus means there is also a large workforce – and the shop-front style resource will help make the union more visible to members, potential members and the wider community.

UNISON is the largest union in the hospital, said Mr Prentis, which was recruiting many new members every week.

Mr Prentis and Ms McAnea also had a chance to speak to patients as they were shown round the hospital by management.

“It’s impossible to build a hospital as big and complex as this and for it not to have a few teething problems,” the general secretary said.

“Our members see things that hospital managers who are running a big hospital can sometimes miss. And they will have good ideas about how we can improve patient care.

“If everyone works together, this fantastic new hospital could meet its vision of providing world-leading patient care for many years to come.”