We must place activist training and member learning at the heart of our union

Sandra-Dee Masson
Sandra-Dee Masson

Activism is at the very heart of our union and as we face the threats from a vicious and vindictive Tory Government it has never been more important to organise ensure our representatives are confident and skilled.

Conference responded to this challenge by setting out a wide ranging strategy to train, develop and support activists.

Moving the motion on behalf of the National Executive Council, Grampian Health’s Sandra-Dee Masson told delegates that cuts to trade union funding and a loss of activists through redundancy and job loss means that we have fewer activists coming through.

“At the same time privatisation and fragmentation mean that our new stewards are facing greater problems with time off and accessing support. This combination of fewer experienced stewards, fewer new stewards and an attack on trade union education is a massive threat for us,” warned Sandra-Dee.

She said that we need to establish a comprehensive and sustainable strategy for developing and supporting our activists and building on UNISON’s personal development opportunities to identify more new reps, particularly in hard to reach sectors.

However, although there are significant challenges it isn’t all doom and gloom, she said, citing examples of good practice including the Scottish lay tutor training model, where the region’s education programme is delivered by a team of lay tutors co-tutoring with regional organisers, providing an excellent example of how training can be delivered in-house without reliance on government funding.

However, more is needed. “Our growing membership in the private and voluntary sector needs and deserves a committed, well trained and supported activist base,” said Sandra-Dee, adding that Learning and Organising Services and regional education teams are working hard to find ways around the challenges we face, “but in order to make a real impact in terms of how we train and develop our next generation of activists we need branch leaders and activists on board as well.”

“UNISON has always led the way across the trade union movement in terms of its commitment to learning, and was highlighted by Dave Prentis in his speech yesterday,” said Sandra-Dee.

“The attacks we are facing now provide us with a challenge but more importantly a real opportunity to place activist training and member learning at the very heart of our union again.”

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