Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Personal report of Development and Organisation sub committee of the UNISON NEC 24th September 2015

Recruitment report
The national officer for Strategic Organising in his report stated that the number of members leaving the union has increased as a result of austerity.

August was always a bad month for recruitment but we were losing more members compared to the same month last year. With the recruitment figures down there was a need to refocus on recruitment. Local Government had suffered in particular under the austerity agenda. By the end of the year judging by the direction of travel we may have lost more members in local government than we did last year. There had even been a decline in schools membership despite school rolls increasing (it has been an area of increase in previous years). Young members continued to be a group where recruitment was up. There was a net loss in all Regions except Northern Ireland. Membership in the Health Service continues to decline at a slower rate than membership in Local Government does. The impact of the DOCAS conversion for National Probation staff will take some time to show up in the figures for this service.
There was a concern from one or two NEC members regarding the format the recruitment figures were presented in. The level of detail supplied was welcomed so we could see what is going on but the smallness of the font in the printed material meant the figures were hard to read in hard copy. The material needed to be fully accessible.

An NEC member with reference to schools recruitment said that members had lost confidence in the ability of the union to deliver on pay after the dispute last year and that nothing had come out of the Local Government special conference that had been held.
Another NEC member stated that a large number of members had joined as a result of the pay campaign in schools because the union was prepared to fight over pay but comparing the Year to Date (YTD) figures for 2015 with 2014 we were going backwards. Some Regions were facing cuts because of cuts to school funding – there needed to be a strategy to deal with cuts.

Another NEC member said that we all know we recruit best when we have high profile campaigns.
The national officer said that the situation in Northern Ireland where we were doing better might be explained by the fact that the structure of Local Government is not the same there.

Switching members from DOCAS (Deduction of Contributions at source) to Direct Debit – lessons to date.
It was stated by the national officer that UNISON was the primary object of the attack. In August the Government announced that it intended to include in the Trade Union bill provisions for removing DOCAS from public sector workers along with draconian strike provisions.

The scale of the challenge facing us is that we have 800,000 members paying by DOCAS. It was anticipated there would be a certain level of loss in the switch over. Not everyone would switch. Even if everyone switched to DD there could be a significant impact on membership retention as the average length of time someone paying by direct debit stays in membership is 5 years as opposed to 7 or 8 when paying by DOCAS.
There was an interesting reference to the International situation regarding Government attacks on Check off or DOCAS where Government's at state level in Australia and the United States have mounted similar assaults.The organising response of the Australian trade unions appears to have been a more effective defence than the legal challenges of the US unions.

There would be a number of ways in which members would be contacted regarding the switch over. UNISON Direct could have a significant role. There may be a web based system to switch. There would be over the phone contact and face to face contact. A good point I thought was made that we should use this exercise as an opportunity to talk through all of the issues around UNISON. Having accurate data on the system would be very important (e.g. addresses, phone numbers) so some serious data cleansing would be necessary. It would be a factor how employers interacted with the legislation. This had been relevant for the PCS (Civil servants union) where some Government departments had better relations with the union than others.
An NEC member said that we were right on this and we should get on with this piece of work. The emergency motion at National Delegate conference had pointed us in the right direction. We had to make a virtue out of a necessity otherwise we could lose members. Material should be sent out to branches encouraging them to think about this. If the switching was being done by face to face contact branches would have a crucial role in this. Contact would have to be made at least annually to check members were paying the correct level of subs.

Another NEC member said there was obviously a relation between steward density and contact with members in workplaces. A further NEC member said this was a very important debate that we had to have in all NEC Committee’s not just D&O. Members will keep paying their subs if they see the value and the benefit. Members trust their stewards the most in terms of the switch but this brought the question should there be training for stewards on confidentiality and data protection.
Lessons learnt from the National Probation service switch campaign – i)easy and efficient systems are essential, ii)face to face switching is the most effective means of switching members, iii) switching takes time and we need as much time as possible in order to switch as many member s as possible, iv) the principal concern expressed by UNISON members has been over double payments - if they pay by DD before DOCAS ceases, v) it is important for people doing face to face switching to understand the issues, vi) Where there have been incomplete or not updated RMS records it has been difficult to contact members.

Learning and Organising services – There had been a slight decrease in Union Learning reps (ULR’s) trained. An update of the activist learning database is scheduled for November 2015. This should make reporting on the number of trained stewards more accurate and for identifying reps who require Employment Relations Act (ERA) accreditation.
Continued development of the RMS
The Head of RMS Operations reported that UNISON processes around 330,000 direct debit payers every month. A second cycle collection option was introduced in June 2015. Regions, UNISON Direct, Join online and branches via WARMS can choose either the 1st or the 15th of the month for the collection date. 800 Branches have WARMS access with 700 Branches actively using the WARMS system. In response to a question from an NEC member about the branches that just use RMS and not WARMS it was stated that RMS will not be switched off overnight and there would be phased approach. WARMS/RMS technology is being refreshed early next year. RMS Operations had taken on board comments from branches in terms of processing direct debit members via WARMS. Enhancements should be made in the autumn of 2015. Current systems have been reviewed so they are capable of transferring members from DOCAS to DD. Lessons had been learnt from the National Probation service. It was important to track progress when switching members - it was asked by an NEC member if a dashboard type facility could be put on WARMS so branches could have an overview of their progress in switching members. It was anticipated that a considerable number of members would only switch when DOCAS is actually removed. RMS is being adapted to include reporting of DOCAS members who have provided bank account details. Regions and branches will be able to monitor the DOCAS members who require transferring to Direct Debit.

Honorary life membership awards - The committee approved an honorary life membership award.

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