Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Recruitment, Organisation and Industrial Action

One rather odd debate, which popped up more than once at today's meeting of the UNISON National Executive Council (NEC) concerned the relationship between recruitment, organisation and industrial action.

It was good to hear once more that, in the target period of this spring's recruitment drive we recruited 44% more members than we had in the comparable period last year. This does indeed demonstrate that an effort of will, backed up with resources, can deliver results.

However, this recent experience does not alter the compelling historical evidence, which is that major "spikes" in recruitment figures are often associated with popular and well-supported industrial action.

Delegates at Conference may therefore find it odd that the NEC decided (on the recommendation of the Development and Organisation Committee, of which I am a member) to oppose Amendment 1.3 at National Delegate Conference.

This amendment, moved by the Southwark Branch to an NEC motion on Organising, and timetabled for debate, essentially makes the point that industrial action can be beneficial for recruitment.

Opponents of the amendment, who carried the day at the NEC, denied the existence of any such relationship. Their argument (which I have heard before from officers) was that it is not that the Union is fighting in our members' (and potential members') interests which helps us to recruit.

Rather it is other activity, incidentally associated with industrial action (and described by one of my fellow NEC members as "talking to our members") which boosts recruitment.

I fear this line of argument is as unpersuasive as it is ill-informed. Supporters of Amendment 1.3 didn't and don't argue that industrial action is the only way to boost recruitment. The amendment simply makes the point that industrial action can be, and often is, associated with trade union growth.

The NEC policy of opposing Amendment 1.3 may well prove as counter-productive as it is misguided, since it could see the debate on organising at Conference dominated by an entirely unnecessary disagreement.

As a member of a minority on an NEC Committee I've done all I can - it's up to Conference delegates to determine UNISON policy now.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

1 comment:

Stephen Smith said...

Whilst I respect the spirit of the unions, and the tenacity they show in times of trouble, industrial action should be illegal and unions desperately need to cut back on political lobbying.