Sunday, 18 January 2015

Report of Development and Organisation subcommittee of the UNISON NEC 14th January 2015

This report was also circulated as an addendum to the NEC reports at the North West Regional Council meeting in Manchester on the 17th January 2015 (given that the D & O meeting only took place 3 days prior) .

We received a PowerPoint briefing on ‘organising fragmented workers delivering public services’. 2 academics Professor Sian Moore of the University of the West of England and Professor Geraldine Healy of Queens University, Belfast produced the briefing for the union in the light of increased pressure on the union as a result of austerity and fragmentation.
Under the Recruiting and Organising report it was noted that despite a difficult year recruitment was holding up. A quarter of new members are now from the private sector. Online joiners account for 54% of all joiners. (The figure for the North West was 52%). We are recruiting more lower paid members and losing less lower paid members but also losing more higher paid members. There was an issue in terms of activist development and what we do around this as a result. More detailed analysis was asked for in terms of how the various pay disputes had given a differential boost to recruitment.

It was hoped we would have a better government in 6 months’ time however the question arose as to what if we have Cameron as Prime minister. DOCAS (Deduction of Contributions at source) or ‘Check off’ was being withdrawn in the Civil Service. How much longer could we keep check off for in the NHS for example as a right wing government would have direct control over this? And how were we preparing for that eventuality? One of the Assistant General Secretaries stated that our systems could cope if large numbers of members changed to becoming Direct Debit payers. The Head of RMS Operations said we needed to have clear procedures in place if DOCAS is withdrawn. One NEC member suggested that it may be beneficial to have contracts or Service Level agreements in place with employers.
The Annual Line count process – This is done at the end of the calendar year and involves a manual line count (count of DOCAS schedules plus the addition of numbers of members who pay by other means) to obtain accurate membership figures for Regions and Service Groups so mitigating the scenario where an employer has not been DOCAS cleansed for some time (although it was stated that the accuracy of RMS/WARMS information has increased greatly over the last 2 years).  There was a membership drop of 1.1% or 13,000 over the year. It was noted UNISON has to deal with a large number of employers (29,000) as opposed to the PCS (Civil servants union) who only have 30 employers.

There was a presentation on the fragmented workforce with particular regard to private contractors. 150,000 members were in the outsourced sector which had been growing. A question arose ‘are we becoming a general Trade Union’. Also do some of the online joiners meet the rule book definition? For multi sector branches there was a link from this to Finance some branches had had difficulties in terms of funding caseworkers and had we done enough to follow members who had gone into the private sector. It was agreed that this would become a standing agenda item for Development and Organisation committee.
Under Learning and training activity – there had been a slight drop - 7% in the number of reps trained in line with a slight fall in the number of reps recruited. The question arose as to whether there was an efficient process for flagging up when existing ERA (Employment Relations Act) accredited stewards were due to have their training refreshed. (This reaccreditation should take place every 5 years).  The process was being discussed between RMS and Learning and Organising services and needed to be more efficient and improved but there would be more information at the next meeting.  

On ‘continued development of the RMS’, the hard work of Branches, Regions and staff was acknowledged. It was not cost effective to maintain RMS and WARMS together but there was currently  ‘no magic switch off date for RMS’. 2015 would be a challenging year but we needed to focus on retention as well as recruitment. If there were any performance issues with WARMS branches would receive help - There was an escalation route. Another collection date is being offered to members for Direct Debit collection.
There were 2 draft motions to go to the 2015 National Delegate conference from D&O (these will need to be agreed by the full NEC) these were ‘Consolidating activist development planning for sustainable organising,’ and ‘Meeting the training needs of union activists in challenging times’.

We approved a number of applications from branches for Honorary UNISON life membership.  There was one member from the North West.
Tony Wilson


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