Workplace Report April 2020

Recruitment and organisation news

Unions organising digitally

Evidence is emerging that some groups of workers are joining unions in increased numbers during the Covid-19 crisis, and unions are keen to keep new members and activists on board for the longer term.

The UNISON public services union says that “there continues to be a significant growth in recruitment to the union as public service workers worry about the impact of the current crisis on their jobs, terms and conditions and, of course, their health.” And the PCS civil service union says that “more non-members are joining PCS than in any other time in the union’s history”.

In UNISON, work is taking place through the union’s Strategic Organising Unit to ensure that this membership growth is maintained once the current health crisis ends. The union says: “As face-to-face organising has all but ceased for the time being, this work includes the trial of digital methods of organising that can be used once the initial emergency diminishes.”

PCS, meanwhile has issued advice to its activists on keeping members engaged and branches active during the lockdown while many reps and members are at home.

It is urging them to set up digital branches and branch executive committees, as some have already done. The union suggests they set up a WhatsApp or Facebook group of the branch executive committee. This can be followed by including further reps or PCS “advocates” in the branch so all activists can keep in touch with each other.

The advice goes on to suggest that reps ask members if they want to be added to these groups, partly to enable them to receive quick updates but also so members can inform reps what is taking place in their workplaces. The PCS guidance also urges activists to ask non-members to join the union.

Other suggestions in the guidance are to:

• get members to update their personal contact information;

• produce a regular branch bulletin; and

• encourage members to get involved in the union, for example as advocates.

The union also urges activists to set up “PCS locals” – where members across all branches and workplaces come together in the communities where they live and work to help others and continue to campaign on pay, equality and job security. The union says dozens of PCS Locals have already been set up, adding: “Organising locally has never been more crucial – mutual aid and support networks have already started forming across the country.”