UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Big turnout at Organising Fringe

Over 200 delegates packed out a fringe meeting straight after conference yesterday #uNDC11 to listen to speakers on the issue after Organising inside UNISON. Jo Spears - a striking Compass worker from Southampton hospitals and Katie Gash - a young Local Organiser working in the SE Region - described jointly their experience of working together with the 3 Companies Project in Southampton Hospital Trust.

'I never really understood what it meant to be a trade unionist when I worked for UNISON as a Clerk and Team Support Worker. Even as a Local Organiser I was more used to stalls, stress penguins and telling workers to join the union. Whilst working with the 3 Companies Project I immediately understood. It's about collectively working together to solve problems and we worked to find their issues by listening. It has had a really important impact on my organising work'

Jo spoke about the Project and how its Organising approach completely changed the workforce view of the union. 'We were cynical about the union but after a lot of hard work we made an Organising Team. We workers are the union on site now. We have won our sick pay, a wage rise and most importantly we have won respect. But we wouldn't have started without 3 Companies and Katie coming in and listening. Now we have been on strike for our back pay and our density is 98%'.

Clare Williams Convenor of the Northern Region outlined from the lay activist perspective exactly what the problems and obstacles are - 'the case work, the demands of representation and the sheer volume of problems that confront us. But we can and must overcome this. In the Northern Region we are already developing ways of redistributing lower level case work so that activists have more time to talk to the workforce'.

Glen Williams from Sefton local government branch and the LG SGE spelled out what activists want - 'its time for us in the union to put our money where our mouth is'. Glen listed the expenditure of the union on conferences, honoraria, branch reserves etc and said 'we have to reprioritise or we are dead in the water'.

Roger McKenzie Assistant General Secretary posed the question 'why organise?'. He cited examples of black workers racially abused, women workers sexually harassed, low paid workers who haven't had a pay rise for 5 years - 'they are the people we have to organise for. We need strong organised workplaces to protect these people.'

Over 300 delegates have already signed up for the new Organisers News Network where information on resources, techniques and successes will be shared. Tomorrow (Thursday) morning will see the major debate on Organising in the union.