UNISON prides itself on being a member-led organisation that operates not only as a bargaining and negotiating body but also as a campaigning group.
This combination ensures not only are immediate employment issues dealt with in detail but that broader issues are picked up and utilised as a tool to further increase union participation amongst staff, improve industrial relations with employers and demonstrate that the union is solid as a unit of members working together, campaigning and organising for the benefit of UNISON and its members.
This idea of us all working together, for the same objectives with the same ideals is essential and needs to be reflected in every Branch of UNISON. To ensure that this Branch achieves its full potential, Doncaster Branch will be subject to a period of regional supervision for a limited period of time.
The Branch office is currently in need of significant support to initiate change and implement structures, both administratively and functionally to get the best out of the Branch to support its members.
As a result of this decision, all elections and the AGM have to be postponed until this period of regional supervision is concluded. UNISON believes this will be achievable within the next six to eight months. Members will be kept informed of progress throughout this period.
The region will be responsible for the continuation of everyday Branch duties including responses and support to lay members, involvement in restructures and implementation of new internal procedures. The region will also take on responsibility for matters of finance, campaigning and communications. These tasks will be undertaken in partnership with a number of existing activists in order to enable continuity and capacity within the Branch.
Embedding these new procedures is of great importance as it will provide the foundation for the Branch to operate in a more effective and efficient manner. It is also an opportunity to revitalise the activity of UNISON's members in Doncaster and encourage more people to come forward to participate in the Branch’s organisation.
As part of this process the current model of convenors, officers and the branch committee will be discontinued. Instead there will be a group that all members will be able to participate in under the title of an Activists Forum.
The objective of this group will be to ensure that changes undertaken are done so in the fullest knowledge and partnership with ordinary members of the Branch. It will also be the forum where general workplace issues can be raised, suggestions for improvement can be discussed and considered, working groups set up to undertake specific projects and reports on progress received and held to account. These meetings will take place monthly and we hope that as many members as possible will take the opportunity to join us at those meetings, even if only for half an hour.
UNISON is eager to identify a broader group of activists to complement its current well-established stewards and health and safety representatives. There are many areas where we do not have active stewards or even a point of contact, this means that UNISON is not always able to easily communicate with its members around the Council and external employers as efficiently as it would like.
Part of the region’s role through the Regional Organiser, Melanie Onn, Area Organiser Ashley Harper, Steve Ball, Area Organiser and Local Organisers Brendan Cafferty and Sarah Keig will be to identify individuals who represent the values of UNISON, are willing and able to join in developing an energetic and vibrant Branch, fully responding to the needs of members and adhering to the principles of increased lay-member activism. They will aim to achieve at least one steward in each workplace or department, to establish a regular method of communication with members, provide mentoring, training and support for any individual who wishes to have greater involvement in UNISON and ensure that there is a forum in which all activists feel confident in participating at all levels.
There are many opportunities within UNISON that members may not be aware of such as the opportunity to undertake education courses at free or reduced rates, participate in regional activities such as being a Youth representative or national events such as the national schools forum. Your UNISON membership is so much more than an insurance policy in case you find yourself in need of help. Many activists become more involved having experienced and appreciated the support they received from their local representatives and want to give something back. Could this be you?
It is inevitable that these changes will cause some concern amongst established activists and there may be some teething problems as we settle in to new routines. However, the region is committed to ensuring that any difficulties are dealt with swiftly and effectively in order to avoid causing any unnecessary disruption in the coming weeks.
If you are interested in becoming more involved, please contact the Branch on 01302 320793 or email Doncaster.firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to speak to one of the named organisers above who will be happy to discuss this with you.
Chris Jenkinson, Regional Head of Local Government