Saturday, November 07, 2009

Recruitment - modest good news

I will blog in full after Wednesday's meeting of the Development and Organisation about the discussion which I hope we will have around recruitment.

The good news is that UNISON membership is increasing, albeit at a relatively modest rate. However, given the job losses which are occurring in some of the areas in which we organise, the fact that we may exceed our target of 1.5% net growth for the year is very welcome.

There are some interesting questions which arise from the data which will be considered at the Committee meeting, some of which I have asked in advance.

It is interesting to consider the Regional variations in recruitment performance. What is it about the East Midlands that makes it the Region which is recruiting best and growing strongly, whereas our worst performing Region (the Northern Region) which has the same annual turnover of membership as the East Midlands is projected to shrink this year?

I am also interested in the balance to be struck between reaching out to organise the unorganised and seeking to raise our density in our core areas (remember that a majority of the directly employed workforce of the London boroughs are not members of any trade union!). I worry that we sometimes get carried away being "forward looking" and facing up to the increasing fracturing of public service provision and so lose a focus on recruiting in our core employers.

If we want to be in a position to evaluate our organising efforts we cannot measure success purely in numbers. Trade union members do not join a union as an end in itself but as a means to the end of promoting our collective interests. We need to measure our effectiveness against a number of indicators, including density, developments on pay, pensions, conditions and job security and the breadth and depth of coverage of collective bargaining in the areas in which we organise.

The fact that potential trade union members are looking at the union for what collective organisation can deliver for their interests is borne out by the fact that the biggest spikes in recruitment occur around major national disputes.

The Tories are coming for the Local Government Pension Scheme. Last time our pension was attacked we took action - and we recruited many more members to our Union. This is an issue around which we should aim to recruit the many thousands of local government workers who are not in a trade union.

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