Sunday, 28 August 2016

Personal report of the Development and Organisation (D&O) subcommittee of the UNISON NEC 25th May 2016

A report was received from the Organisation and Membership sub committee of D&O looking at issues of:
  1. Shopfront resource centres, the experience of these and their development.
  2. How we should plan to resource branches.
  3. Activist development – there would be more emphasis on this looking at the challenges we face.
2 new members of staff had been appointed to look at activist development and employed to support the Strategic Organising Unit. One of the members of staff will be supporting branches in the North of England and has been previously part of the Four Seasons Project.
There was acknowledgement that the Joint Branch assessments are generally a paper exercise. The proposal is to have a more dynamic online system, which can be accessed by organisers.
Recruitment and Organising – The Head of Strategic Organising stated that the number of new members we have recruited has increased over the last 3 years. Each of the last 3 years has seen us however lose more members than recruit but the number lost has been decreasing each year for the last 3 years. 30% of all new joiners are people who work outside the public sector. The private and voluntary sector membership is increasing (these could be people who TUPE transfer from the public sector - not necessarily new people). There was an associated issue of fragmentation. There was also a challenge to recruit more activists in these sectors.

15% of the total membership is now outside the public sector. The trend continues of recruiting more lower paid members and losing higher paid members.
The union has been tracking lapsed members over the last 2 years with some evidence that a phone call helps retain members.

The average time a member is in membership who pays by DOCAS (Deduction of Contributions at Source) is 7 years compared to 5 years by DD (Direct Debit). A question was asked was this more to do with the profile of the employer? And could we have a breakdown of differential turnover by sector – how was this related to areas where there are less activists? It was agreed there would be more analysis on this.
The Eastern Region are piloting a single branch to service members in the private sector where there is little scope to organise.

Learning and Organising report (Learning and Organising services – LAOS)
In 2015 9,300 activists attended UNISON training, 61% of them women. The figures for the North West are:

Reps training  Health & Safety Union Learning
2014    2015      2014    2015      2014     2015

314      313         22         35          12          8

The number attending ERA re-certification training in the North West was 215 for 2015, the highest number across all Regions. The number of stewards recruited in 2015 who have been trained to date is up from 15% in 2014 to 33% in 2015.
John Jones from the North West commented that in places like Cumbria membership was spread out and joint training had been organised between branches not necessarily through the Region and this had been found to be a good fit. It was also remarked that Health and Safety reps once they became H+S reps - they stayed as such. Members who become reps sometimes end up going up the managerial chain. This did not apply to the same extent to Health and Safety reps. With regard to Union Learning reps (ULR’s) – UNISON sometimes struggles to get ULR’s - again we should not beat ourselves up – UNISON members were not in manual employment to the same extent as GMB or UNITE and had often already got qualifications.

Bernie Gallagher from the North West stated that it was important that on Rep 1 courses for members the first point of contact was with a good tutor.
Future resourcing and delivery of activists education was discussed in the context of reduction in funding. From August 2016 no trade union education will be fully funded by the Further education formula for England. The skills funding agency will continue to part fund TUC Education where it complies with the range of requirements for public funding e.g. accreditation and specific sector skills requirements. The TUC estimate the gap to be £6.5 million for 2016-17. The TUC has set aside a £1.4 million fund to assist the transition period.

John Jones asked for a small Working Party to be set up to review activists training - with the re-election of the Tories the position was likely to worsen. This was not supported.
WARMS/RMS (Web access replacement membership system)
A compromise had taken place over the Government’s proposed detrimental changes affecting DOCAS (Deduction of Contributions at Source). Amendments to the Trade Union bill (now Act) mean a DOCAS service can remain if UNISON pays the Operational cost for this service and members have a choice to pay their subscriptions. Prior to this pilot exercises had been undertaken in some branches to get branches ‘switch ready’ (from DOCAS to Direct Debit subs collection) – these were described as having been useful. An end of the month Direct Debit collection cycle had been adopted. Some overdue maintenance on WARMS would be taking place over the quieter summer period. An NEC member acknowledged the enormous work that had gone into the ‘DD ready’ campaign – we had not been wrong to be ready for the worst. I asked should we be reconsidering the messages we were sending out to branches though, after the Government made concessions – we didn’t want to put members automatically on Direct Debit if this was not necessary as there were organising benefits associated with DOCAS. In reply it was stated that for the larger employers where the employer has signed up to DOCAS, the details of members can now automatically be sent to the employer’s payroll department by WARMS for the member to pay by DOCAS. Another NEC member was not in favour of us proactively converting members back to DOCAS. It was asked by an NEC member could there be a date every week of the month to pay by Direct Debit.

There was a presentation on a mobile campaign tool - this is a simple online facility where we could capture contact with individual members. Personal details and Contact information could be updated. If an organiser, for example,  had visited a group of members in a workplace this could be written away to RMS in real time. Version 1 was about to be released and there were plans for enhancements.
Conference business – Provisional policy on motions, amendments to motions and rule amendments for National Delegate Conference relevant to D&O was discussed.

1. An organising response to the Trade Union bill – support with qualifications (SWQ) – some parts of this had been written before the bill became law.  1.1 SWQ 1.2 support.
5.1 from the National Young members forum – support, 6.1 support, 9.1 support (Branch resource centres) 13.1 support, 14.1 support,15 Defer, 16.1 support 125 Branch Directory – support.

Draft Composite A – the amendment was accepted.
Rules – 4. Structure of the union at national level – deferred for Consultation. 9. From Kirklees – deferred for Consultation with Service Groups and Regions.

Branches under Regional supervision – Seven branches were under regional supervision – none in the North West. It was agreed that if an Annual General meeting (AGM) is not to be held and a branch is in Regional Supervision then an explanation of why there is not to be an AGM should be provided in the report.  
Attendance from D&O committee at TUC Conference 2016 – 3 places were available, 2 of whom must be a woman. The Chair of D&O goes as a member of TUC General Council. The Vice Chair goes automatically. 4 names were put forward. John Jones and Bernie Gallagher from the North West put their names forward. I voted for Bernie and John.

The result was John Jones – 7 votes, Andrew Anderson – 11 votes, Bernie Gallagher – 8 votes, Irene Stacey – 11 votes.
So Irene Stacey, Margaret McKee and Andrew Anderson attend.

Hononary Life Membership – Honorary Life membership was awarded to William Stanley Drinkwater form the North West Ambulance Service, who is retiring after 41 years service.