I led a meeting yesterday with my Greater Glasgow Organising Team responsible for supporting 18 UNISON branches that represent over 50,000 members in the Glasgow area. We were reviewing progress with our 2009 plan and developing new plans for the coming year.
Members are of course the lifeblood of any trade union and therefore recruitment is essential to building a strong and effective trade union. These are difficult times for the public sector with, as yesterdays staffing watch figures show, reducing numbers of public service workers in Scotland. Despite this context UNISON membership in the Glasgow area grew by 3.3% last year. A tremendous effort by everyone involved. Particular credit goes to the NHS Glasgow and Clyde Branch that led the way with a 9% membership increase. This is our largest UNISON branch in Scotland and we introduced a new organising model there a year ago that has delivered an effective partnership between staff and lay activists. We have now rolled out that staffing model across the Greater Glasgow team.
But recruitment on its own isn’t enough. It has to be sustained by new stewards who are properly trained and supported to undertake bargaining and representation. There was significant progress in recruiting new stewards together with a range of innovative training. The final part of the jigsaw is relevant campaigning and better communication. Members join and actively participate in their union when we are campaigning on the issues that matter to them and communicate in a language they understand. Again there were good examples of this in Glasgow last year.
Given the scale of job losses planned in Scottish local government and health, 2010 is going to be much more difficult. However, there will be no shortage of issues to organise around.