The best people to recruit new members are the UNISON members working alongside them. Successful recruiters can influence non-members to join when the union is seen to be active, has credibility, organises in a workplace and actively contacts potential members on a regular basis.
UNISON runs high profile advertising campaigns to support activists, branch members and the union’s organising staff, letting potential members know the essential cover that UNISON provides.
But whatever the resources UNISON invests in recruiting – money, materials, people and time – there are always occasions when you come up against people with an argument for whey they shouldn’t join the union.
Here are some of the most common – along with suggested answers that might help persuade non-members to become part of the UNISON family.
1 – It’s too expensive
UNISON membership subs depend on how much people earn. They can be as little as £1.30 a month.
It’s value for money – a premium service that offers peace of mind and security. And membership costs do not automatically increase every year.
Membership includes free legal advice.
It’s not as expensive as losing your job and having no-one to fight your corner.
We offer concessions for students.
2 – I’ve had a bad experience with UNISON in the past
Listen to their negative experience. Steer the conversation towards a more positive outcome by asking how they would have dealt with the situation differently.
Explain that times have changed and that being part of a collective and getting involved can help resolve workplace situations.
Empathise: offer support and confidentiality on any current issues.
3 – I can get all the benefits without joining
Non-members may be able to get certain benefits – when unions negotiate a pay rise, enhanced sick pay or holidays, we do so for the whole workforce. But non-members can still find themselves vulnerable without proper representation at disciplinary or grievance meetings.
By being part of a democratic process such as consultation and negotiation, they will have a voice throughout the process.
And keeping the number of members small can undermine the strength of the union – which can have a negative effect on deals and agreements.
4 – Aren’t you affiliated to the Labour Party?
Explain that all unions have a political fund – it’s needed for campaigning.
It is up to individual members whether choose to actively sign up to pay an extra amount over and above their subs into the union’s campaigning fund or Labour Link.
5 – It could harm my career
Employer don’t need to know if someone is a member and they can pay by direct debit rather than through your salary.
On top of that, UNISON has a lifelong learning agenda – learning new skills and ongoing training opportunities will help a member’s career, not harm it.
6 – I’ve never needed to join
The chances are that the union has already fought and won collective issues for everybody, including the person you’re talking to.
The workplace is always changing: by being a member, they will be represented in situations such as disciplinary hearings or redundancies.
7 – I’m an agency worker – I can’t join
Agency workers can join and pay by direct debit. All workers, including agency workers, have the right to be accompanied at a workplace disciplinary or grievance hearing by a trade union rep or a colleague.
We represent thousands of agency workers.
8 – I don’t want to go on strike
A strike is a last resort for everyone and only happens if members vote in favour of action. By joining the union, they will have a say in whether a strike is voted for.
On top of that, 90% of members have never been on strike because negotiation usually settles disputes.
But do explain why it’s sometimes necessary to go on strike – or even just threaten to – as part of negotiations.
9 – My manager is a member
The union is inclusive, so every staff member can join. But they all have an equal voice within the union – the views of the person you’re recruiting will have just as much weight as their manager.
10 – There’s no personal benefit to me
Membership benefits include free legal representation, access to our welfare charity There for You and many training and development opportunities.
There are also a host of exclusive member-only financial benefits and deals.
11– What’s the point? I can’t be bothered
Give examples of local and national successes, including workplace issues.
Go “fishing” – show an interest, ask key questions to prompt further discussion at a later date.
Explain UNISON’s role in the workplace, the membership benefits and why we need to increase membership numbers.
12 – Unions don’t have any power and don’t do anything
All workers’ rights have been won because of unions – paternity leave, local government pension scheme, national minimum wage, family friendly policies etc.
Unions are a good source of information.
Explain our lifelong learning agenda.
13 – I’m worried about management reprisals
Explain the law concerning union membership, giving positive examples.
Try and draw out their issues and give examples of how these may be resolved.
Workers are more likely to be targeted by management if you’re not a member.
But at the same time, the employer doesn’t need to know that you’re a member.
14 – Why bother? It’s a waste of time
The union will always bother if a problem affects you.
If you get actively involved, you can help yourself and your colleagues – that’s a very good use of your time.
15 – I’m too busy
Completing the membership form will take just five minutes!
16 – No-one asked me
This is the most common reason given by non-members when asked why they’re not a member of a union.
We need to accept that it points to a problem with ourselves – and that’s why we’re dedicating a whole month of the whole union concentrating on recruitment in November.
But it is important to have a conversation with potential recruits – resist the temptation to talk at them.
Remember: Like recruits like – it’s a bit of a cliche in union circles, but it’s a cliche for a good reason.
The best people to recruit new members are existing members – who also gain by being in a stronger union.
At the end of the day, a union is only as strong as its membership. The more members we have, the stronger we become and the more protection we can offer.