”UNISON is going from strength to strength,” the union’s national executive council heard at its meeting in London today.
“We are continuing to grow, with membership increasing by 8,413 so far this year,” general secretary Dave Prentis told the meeting.
He noted that the biggest growth occurred during the week of the Labour Party conference – with a particular spike on Monday and Tuesday – when UNISON featured in newspaper and broadcast bulletin reports from Brighton.
But the issue is one of looking forward with ambition, hoping to grow from a union of 1.3 million members to two million over the coming years.
And the union is not resting on its laurels. Next month will see a repeat of the union’s Go for Growth focus on recruitment and retention across all parts of the union: UNISON Centre, regions, branches and individual activists.
This will include a specific focus on retaining members, following research on why members leave.
Trying to retain or recapture members as they’re leaving has limited effectiveness, the NEC heard. The key is to contact them and make them feel welcome in the union as they join and in the first few months following their joining.
Recalling the Labour conference and UNISON’s role in getting key policies adopted, Mr Prentis recalled that it was dominated by “the imminent general election and the uncertainty over Brexit”.
The NEC was briefed on the union’s plans for a likely general election sometime in the next three months, looking at “how we plan for uncertainty”.
Although an election is “imminent”, the meeting heard, we can’t predict when it will be.
Despite tight financial constraints – following an election or referendum in three of the last four years – the union said it will “throw everything” at the most important election of a generation.
At the same time, the constraints of the Lobbying Act and trade union legislation mean that everything must be done through the union‘s political funds.
And while Brexit might dominate election coverage, UNISON will concentrate on talking to its members about “things that matter” such as public services and family incomes.
On Brexit, Dave Prentis reiterated UNISON’s belief that a no-deal Brexit will be a disaster for public services and stressed that Northern Ireland, the border and maintaining the Good Friday Agreement was a priority consideration for the union – as it had been from day one.
Separately, he noted that UNISON is fighting back, declaring: “There is no doubt we are taking more industrial action than all the other unions put together,” up and down the UK and in branches across the union.
On a related note, the meeting congratulated three UNISON members who were awarded TUC gold badges at the organisation’s congress in September: Lyn Marie O’Hara, Pat Heron and Wendy Nichols.
Looking globally, the NEC congratulated branches who had organised activities and supported the climate strike during Green UNISON Week.
Dave Prentis reported that he had written to foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to express UNISON’s “deep concern” at Turkey’s plans for a military incursion into Kurdish lands in northern Syria – an action that started with airstrikes as the meeting was taking place.
The meeting also:
- welcomed good recruitment and retention figures for July and August;
- received updates on pay campaigning and industrial action across the union’s various bargaining units;
- approved the union’s accounts for the first six months of the year;
- received an update on the branch resources review working group.