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

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Checklist for building a union in your workplace

The Red Pepper magazine has produced a useful list of steps for building a union at work. It properly emphasises the need to avoid a number of classic activist mistakes - don't rant at people, listen to them, don`t substitute yourself for the union, don`t go for the big unwinnable issues first and give others small tasks to do to build confidence. Although it assumes there is no union presence at the workplace already (which in the larger economy is more likely than not) much of the advice is appropriate to a unionised public sector workplace. It lists what is simply good practice:

However there are a number of qualifications we should put on the advice. To immediately view the union as `bureaucrats` is treading down a well worn cul de sac. The union brings experience and advice, it also brings resources. It may even be a union that wants to empower workers and give them a voice. The union is the workers, paying subs and taking part in the wider life of the organisation. To `third party` the union as potential opponents is fundamentally wrong.

It is also important to escalate activity. To be thinking about strike action from the beginning is ignoring all the good advice in the list, listening and taking small steps. In many workers minds strike action is the last thing they want to do, to lose pay. So the good advice to seek allies is not about building for a strike but about getting a wider hearing and getting a consensus of support for what you are trying to do. There are many more allies than just other unions.

Getting ahead of the workforce when trying to build a union is a common cause of failure. Red Pepper gives good advice, but the qualifications we offer are very important.