1 June 2022

Ballot-ready: Finding harder-to-reach members and persuading them to vote

We hear from three of the winners in the PCS Organising and Communications Awards on some of the things they are doing to contact and convince previous non-voters to cast their ballots this autumn.

As we move into a critical organising period ahead of our national industrial action ballot this autumn, thinking about how we locate and talk to every member, involve them, and persuade them to vote is more important than ever. This is now particularly important for the members we know did not vote in the recent consultative ballot on pay and pensions.

This mapping and communications work is so important to winning for members. It can feel ‘unseen’, but the impact is invaluable.

A few of our fantastic activists were recognised for their outstanding efforts with such work, in the PCS Organising and Communications Awards, announced at conference in May. We hear from three of the winners on some of the things they are doing in their branches to find and convince previous non-voters to cast their ballots this autumn.

For more tips – and a full list of the award winners – click here

‘Face-to-face conversations are the best way to talk to people’

Overall individual winner Jasmine Lota, from the British Museum United branch, said they put a lot of effort into locating members and talking to them face-to-face, often by enlisting the help of their direct colleagues.

“We still find face-to-face conversations are the best way to talk to people. If we've got a member’s name on the branch list but we don't have their contact details, we’ll always try to get hold of someone who works in their office or area, or has got a friendly relationship with them. We ask them to get in touch and to ask the member to check our branch Facebook page or get on our WhatsApp group. It works!

“Ahead of this next ballot, one of our main tasks is to make sure that all our members’ ballot addresses are up to date. Although our turnout in the consultative ballot was around 64-65%, which is really good, our branch still has more than a third of people who didn't vote. So we need to engage with those members and find out why they didn't vote and talk to them about why the campaign is important to them.

“We're going to make sure that everyone who did vote in the consultative ballot votes again in September, and then we'll ask those people to ask their colleagues who didn't vote ­­(once we identify them) to vote this time, because this is the big one.”

See our longer interview for more on the branch’s methods, such as mapping members/reps on giant sheets of paper, running PCS stalls in the work canteen, and conducting surveys on workplace issues – click here

Engaging with hundreds of members on Teams

Tom Westgarth, a rep in DWP Tyneside and Northumbria branch since October 2021, won this year’s new activist award. During the consultative ballot he contacted more than 800 members via Teams to encourage them to vote. He plans on taking the same approach for the upcoming ballot, to urge people to update their ballot details, cast their votes, and get involved.

“Teams is far and away the easiest way of method of contacting everybody in your team and beyond.

“For the consultative ballot, I got a list of members and membership numbers from our branch secretary, so I could find them on PCS Digital and check they were still an active member. Then I would find them on Teams and send them a message just reminding them about the ballot and asking if they had voted. If they hadn't received the ballot or had accidentally deleted it, I would get a new one sent. I went through the list, then got another list, then another list!... then collated all the people who had voted and updated PCS Digital with the names. I made a colour-coded database with the people we had contacted, those who had voted already or voted since I'd told them, and all the people I was unable to find on either PCS Digital or Teams.

“I did it because it was for the union and it was real engagement. It got the name of the union out there as well.

“We needed to get to the 50% turnout – if we didn't do that work it was never going to happen. In the end it was just under, but it was close. It highlights the work that still needs to be done, but also it is motivating to know that we are so close and to know that people are waking up to the idea that they're getting robbed of their pay.”

See our longer interview for more on how making individual contact with members also encouraged them to come to the union for help with workplace issues – click here

Covid has meant we have more communication tools at our disposal

Branch organiser Daniel Hucklesby is part of the DVLA Swansea BEC that won the team award. They were praised for use of advocates as well as their increased use of social media (with 2,000+ members on their Facebook page), regular members’ meetings, Callhub use, frequent newsletters and use of digital tools.

“We utilise our Facebook page to its fullest and post regular reminders to members that ballots have been sent out. We remind people that in order for us to act in the best interests of all members, we need to hear their views. I think covid has made our jobs of keeping in touch with members easier. We have more tools at our disposal.

“Members who do not provide their personal details will normally have a work email address and therefore have access to Teams. When we were contacting members though CallHub, any members we didn’t have a personal phone number for were identified and contacted by a BEC member through Teams.

“The last 18 months has been huge for the DVLA branch, with our dispute over covid safety. I feel our members are more engaged than ever and, as a result, we have become a lot better at organising and rallying our members to speak to their peers about how important it is to vote in our ballots.”

Ballot-ready branches: 5 things activists can do now