Renfrewshire model of organising low paid women to be rolled out across UNISON

Lorna Glover
Lorna Glover

Local Government Conference applauded an initiative from UNISON Renfrewshire bringing together different occupational groups of low paid members around shared issues.

The leadership will now look at rolling this out as an organising and recruitment tool. It will provide guidance for branches on adopting this model and will publicise success.

Moving the Renfrewshire motion, Lorna Glover gave the background to the initiative explaining that the branch decided they wanted to do something different, to see what could be achieved.

“To that end we took issues which affect two groups of occupations and organised a summit.

The groups they targeted were Home Carers and Additional Support Needs Workers, invited to the event by email, letter and workplace meetings.

On a cold Saturday in November 2017 they met in Paisley Town Hall.  Just under 100 members giving up their free time on a Saturday morning to come together as a collective.

The four hour summit covered many topics with a mixture of invited speakers and workshops.

“Workshops focused on getting our members to discuss specific topics like terms and conditions, grading and practices around administration of medicines.

“The shared experiences between these two groups was invaluable.  We then got them to complete a questionnaire around their working experiences and commit to “Do One Thing” to carry out a pre- set task,” said Lorna.

The branch used the analysis of the questionnaires to force the employer to the negotiating table and established a working group to address the issues raised.

“However, there was another positive outcome,” added Lorna. “It established solidarity by uniting two different occupational groups so that there is now a network.  This is key when these workers often work remotely in individual schools or out in the community working in service users homes with no centralised base. “

She called on the Service Group to support this model across branches.

Lorna said, “It took all our members, activists and the support of our Branch Admin staff to make for a successful event.  It was loud, passionate, angry, empowering and funny in equal measure.

She ended to laughter and applause, “Never underestimate the power of a Unison member wearing a tabard.”

Alison McCorquodale
Alison McCorquodale

Alison McCorquodale from the Service Group Executive stepped up to confirm that the SGE have already agreed to work on this and are producing new organising materials based on occupations.

“We’re starting with admin workers, youth and community workers and care workers,” said Alison,

“But we should extend this work to many more areas.

“Most local government workers identify themselves chiefly by the job they do; by the kind of service they provide.

“It is therefore vital that we recruit and organise in ways that resonate with them, in ways that appeal to them and in ways that show that they are valued.

“Bringing together occupational groups and get them involved in clear, simple actions will help us recruit, (recruit, recruit) it will help us organise and it will strengthen our union,” she added.

“We must build on successful campaigns that have been based on this approach.  Campaigns like the Ethical Care Campaign, which is about pay and conditions but is also about us getting to grips with exactly what makes a good – and bad – service.”

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