Campaigning in social care during lockdown

Stewards in Bon Accord Care, Aberdeen’s arms-length care service, along with fighting fund staff and led by area organiser, Karen Davidson, are at the forefront of UNISON Scotland’s new organising initiative.

Building on the huge influx of members, especially in social care, the initiative looks at engaging with staff on issues of workplace safety, pay and job security to encourage activism amongst new members.

Karen explains, “With lockdown, UNISON Aberdeen City Branch faced a huge challenge. A fighting fund project had been set up to engage and organise members in Bon Accord Care.

“The project was just beginning and Bon Accord stewards, along with the organising staff, faced the challenge of adapting the organising strategy they had planned to implement.  We were unable to visit workplaces, prospect in areas where we knew staff would be congregated or hold members meetings.

“With the issues in social care around the lack of PPE and information to workers being sporadic we decided to trial a health and safety themed webinar.

“The organisers on the team attempted to phone every member. No mean feat when members work patterns were not known. With persistence we did it, and the first webinar ran on 7 May with several sessions to accommodate shift patterns. Most sessions were well attended and had full engagement from the members.

“A follow up webinar was held on 26 May adapting the session to fit the changing issues members were telling us about.

“This was another success. The members told us their concerns, asked questions for us to raise with management and agreed to share a H&S survey with their colleagues to help us recruit new members and attend another meeting where we can feed back management response.

“The whole experience has been intense, from coming up with a plan, agreeing and practising scripts for phone banking, delivering the webinar and following up members afterward. So far, we have had two members tell us that they would like to be more involved in the branch.

“It’s still early days but we will continue to build on the relationships we have developed over the phone with these members and hopefully, as we roll out fortnightly webinars with members’ meetings in between, we will continue to build membership and activists within Bon Accord Care.”