UNISON Membership Update Details Request Message
Dear UNISON Member,
UNISON Office is looking for your help please. As you’re reading this, the e-mail address we hold for you is correct, so thank you. It means you’ve either had the same address since you joined UNISON or you have updated your details as you have changed it.
Unfortunately, we don’t hold correct contact details for too many of our members. It could be that some of these members do not wish to be involved in receiving UNISON information and contributing as part of our collective when we look to represent your views and wishes with employers. However, we also know that many eventually contact the office expressing frustration that we have not contacted them, particularly when important issues arise which impact them. The misunderstanding seems to be that we have some means of updating their details from information received, usually supposed to be the employer. Sadly, it doesn’t work like that.
As COVID struck in March, we suddenly had had to rely more than ever on electronic communication with our members. Our premise to employers of representing your views is dependent on hearing your voices. Our democracy, now particularly critical in the face of more stringent Trades Union legislation which we would label Anti Trades Union legislation, requires a larger mandate in any ballot to our members. Your participation is critical to our success.
Therefore, can we ask please that you spread the word for us with your colleagues. Commonly, you might hear from a colleague that they never hear from us. For most cases, you now know why this may be the case.
Please recommend members go to https://www.unison.org.uk/ and sign into my UNISON to correct or update their details. Members need their membership number to sign into my UNISON and can contact this office if they don’t have this to hand.
Of course, e-mail is not the only important contact detail:
These details help us identify emerging issues within groups, collate common issues within employers, send out paper when we need to, make quick contacts should the situation arise so we can protect your interests.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Please spread the word.
UNISON Dorset Branch Office Team
Tel: 01305 224436 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
“Having a union membership is like having a gym membership. It’s no good unless you get up and get going…”
It’s been almost one year to the week since I’ve trained to be a Unison rep, and almost two since I became an employee of Dorset Council (or West Dorset District Council as it was then). I thought this would give me a good opportunity to reflect on what’s happened since – obvious challenges aside – and how I got to this point in the first place.
I’ve always been a member of a trade union. I was a teacher before I came to DC and, as any teacher will tell you, you join a union when you train and you stay there. I won’t go into too much detail as to why I left teaching, but it played a big part in my decision to become more active in Unison at DC. The unfortunate reality was that:
By the time I realised something was wrong, it was too late, and any resolve I had to stay was broken. I could not have stayed in that job a day longer, and I was so tainted that I had to leave the career altogether.
In short, I became a rep to help people avoid the same downwards spiral I suffered in teaching. Had I reached out earlier, I may still be teaching. As a member, I was not active when I needed to be, I was not aware of the effect I could have on anything, I was not fighting to expand the union’s influence in a school that badly needed it.
Starting a new career at DC was a breath of fresh air – I finally felt respected and trusted: and no longer like I would slowly drown in an ever increasing workload whilst being gaslit and manipulated into believing any small failure was my fault; because I wasn’t trying hard enough; because this small simple thing I wasn’t doing would work; and it was clearly my application and more importantly my effort that was lacking.
This is why I am now a rep. How I feel now is how I felt at the start of my teaching career. I didn’t feel the need to become active, because I was happy. I had no issues with my manager, few with the SLT, none with colleagues. Three years later, I would leave my first school a happy man. Two years after that, I would leave my second without a job to go to – so desperate was I to leave.
When the sun shines, make hay.
So what hay have I made? Initial training is over five days spread over five weeks – Tuesday at Wareham for me. I got to spend five days shut (voluntarily) in a room with other trade unionists, discussing trade unionism, politics, democracy, capitalism, liberalism, neo-liberalism, socialism, communism, fascism and all-the-other-isms. You learn where trade unionism comes from, how it got here and where it’s going. You learn about organising, collective bargaining and disputes. You learn how to map your membership, and run specific targeted campaigns. You learn how grievances work. How disciplinary processes work. How self-organised-groups work. How the local Unison structures work. How the national Unison structures work.
You’re then sent back to branch, and the real learning begins. You learn to listen. You learn to really listen. You learn to ask questions. You learn to ask better questions. You learn to know when to answer, and when to ask for help. You learn about human nature. You learn how to deliver bad news. You learn how to deliver good news. You learn that not all cases you will win. You learn that it’s best to say that from the start when dealing with one you won’t win. You learn about the influence even a small organised group can have. You learn about how, when brought to someone’s attention, a minor inconvenience to you can be a massive issue for someone else. You learn about how insidious austerity is.
I’ve dealt with grievances, reorganisations, collective disputes, more grievances, dismissal, complaints against service and appeals. Reps are just like teachers – they don’t have all the answers, but they do know where to get them, how to process the information and how to place it in a logical way for their members to follow. They’re also not afraid to be direct, communicate clearly and stand up to anyone.
Most importantly, I have learned a simple truth:
Without us, the workforce, nothing is produced.
Unison is its members. You – the membership – are utterly key in the running, power and direction of Unison, and all trade unions. When the results for the recent pay claim came back, I was dismayed to find only around 10% of Dorset Branch had voted. Clearly, we need to do better to engage you.
I want to use this platform to ask a favour of you – the reader. If you do one thing from having read this article, do this: find yourself a Unison rep (email@example.com can help with this), get their name, number, email and say hello. Get a point of contact. Run things by them. Ask them for the news. Ask them about what they do. Ask them about what we do. Ask them how you can help. Ask them how it all works. Ask them how you can get involved.
Our strength lies in numbers. Without numbers, we have nothing. Without high levels of engagement with our membership, how are we to represent the membership? With austerity looking to continue its slow crushing of any service that doesn’t seek to make a rich person richer, we are at the mercy of those holding the purse-strings. And with the impending economic situation, those purse strings are tightening quickly. Help us help you. Together, we will ensure that our futures and that of those around us – our families, friends, colleagues and other working people – improve.