Putting campaigning at the heart of organising
Day in, day out, PCS reps and activists across DWP receive thousands of communications from our members advising us of issues which affect their working lives. A lot of them become the subject of local negotiations. This makes total sense – one thing we teach new reps as part of our training package is to identify how to identify collective issues from what, at first, may appear to be individual problems.
What doesn’t necessarily happen is for the subject of these negotiations to become a campaign which engages members, makes them feel part of their trade union, makes them encourage their friends to join PCS or encourages them to become active themselves. In fact, what can sometimes happen is that DWP managers take credit for the product of local negotiation, meaning that non-members feel there is less reason to join. If local reps don’t share the outcome of local negotiations to members, this is especially likely.
The organising and education sub-committee of the group executive committee met on 7 July and held, what I thought to be, one of the most productive meetings I’ve been part of as a rep on this topic. We agreed to propose to the GEC a set of measures, largely around this particular issue.
Reps and activists can expect to see draft materials landing over the next few weeks relating to this – chiefly a local branch organising community plan (short and suitable for local amendments and discussion), and a model campaign template, which will help branches plan what they want to achieve from a campaign and how they’re going to do it.
What we’d like branches to do, in a nutshell, is celebrate successes more. If several members contact reps and advise that employee deal flexi arrangements are of concern within their area, then it is possible to guide all of them individually through the grievance process (and of course, a lot of the time the only way to assist a member with an issue is through a one-to-one personal case). On the other hand, it’s also possible to mount a local campaign and increase the membership, activist base, interest within the union and local industrial strength.
Branches may not want to wait for queries to come in. If a branch surveys its members about what is of concern to them, and attendance management policy implementation is at the top of the list, why not campaign around it?
Successes from negotiation are more likely to come when local managers know that the weight of the local membership are behind the reps than if this hasn’t been demonstrated through a well organised campaign. Digital meetings with members, stories from our members, local petitions; these are all ways of demonstrating strength of feeling to our managers.
I’m looking forward to working with regions, nations and branches over the coming year to ensure that the material provided is of use and is being regularly used.
Absolutely everything of concern to our members is a potential campaign, which can help us organise, grow and win.
DWP group organiser