Recruitment at core of union's future

Growing the membership through systematic workplace recruitment campaigns is a core objective for PCS.

The NEC has now agreed to work to a target of reaching 200,000 members by 2020. This will increase our bargaining strength and influence, with the added benefit of further financial stability.

Impressive progress has been made with recruitment rates in many areas since last year, but more has to be done to keep pace with the number of people leaving the civil service.

If current recruitment and leaver levels remain stable, membership is expected to reach around 181,000 by the end of 2017. PCS estimates that there are more than 100,000 non-union members in the civil service, which shows the potential for growth if there is widespread commitment and a systematic approach to recruitment and organisation.

Two major focuses are recruiting at workplace inductions and recruiting apprentices, of which 30,000 are due to be taken on by 2020. There have been notable successes, and a ‘How To’ guide on recruiting at inductions has been published to help reps with their planning.

Activate has previously reported the importance of linking Union Learning to recruitment and the significance of a deal that gives union reps the right to get new-starter lists from employers and have access to inductions for recruitment purposes.

How we did it: some recruitment successes

• Land Registry Durham - signed up 26 apprentices

“We arranged with local management a definitive slot as part of the initial training at Land Registry.  That means we saw all the apprentices at the same time.

The BEC members who gave the presentation were key, we used three and included one of our existing apprentices who is already on the BEC. A young members rep was also part of the team. We explained what trade unions are all about, what PCS is all about, and what PCS has achieved in Land Registry, specifically the defeat of proposed privatisation which directly led to government-backed apprentices being recruited. Then we handed out an application form, and PCS pen, and asked them to join there and then, pointing out the six months free membership at the same time. 
The offer of a PCS desk calendar if they do so works a treat!”

• R&C East Midlands - recruited more than 100 members in five months

“Our Branch Committee drew up, agreed and implemented a targeted organising plan that prioritised recruiting new HMRC starters in the equalities agenda areas – youth, black, disabled, LGBTQ+ and women especially – but included anyone wishing to find out more or join. We wanted to raise the visibility of PCS in our workplaces and increase our activist base as well as recruiting. Our plan included a range of ‘visible’ activities: desk-to-desk visits, drop-in workshops, induction sessions, recruitment stalls and good communications with management.
Part of our plan was to participate at official functions organised for staff in our workplaces: East Midlands Live and a Wellbeing ‘market stall’ event. These events were very well attended and our information stalls provided a good opportunity to underline the validity of the union function in the workplace, engage with members over their concerns and with others over the importance and benefits of trade union membership. The distribution of PCS material and promotional items such as desktop calendars, lanyards and desk tidies has also increased our visibility, and the PCS logo is now more noticeable.

We also continue to run a monthly lunchtime stall and have rejuvenated the branch newsletter.

Members are also now engaging in discussions with their colleagues more, encouraging them to get involved and join PCS.
We were able to foster good industrial relations via prompt dialogue with senior managers that resulted in early notification of new starters and requests for PCS reps to attend induction sessions. This resulted in a great many new members. Staff who joined earlier this year are now advising other new entrants about PCS.
From the body of new recruits has emerged new advocates, reps and, we hope, potential branch officers! A training and mentoring plan has been adopted and our new reps are getting on brilliantly!
The key driver in our success was the careful pre-planning and introduction of a focused, prioritised and realistic organising plan – containing what we believed were ambitious but not absurdly unrealistic objectives – which was reviewed and updated regularly.

The involvement of as many branch activists as possible was vital. Progress was monitored to identify new events, re-focus on key aims and objectives, note successes and failures. The overall effect was to build momentum and confidence amongst existing activists, new reps and members alike. We have achieved and exceeded some of our targets, and fallen short in other areas, but collectively have experienced a new sense of energy and purpose that we hope to now continue into the next year of activity.”

• Durham Passport Office signed up members during a floor-walk

“It was a case of picking a date and just doing it! It can be very easy to sit around discussing the what and where for so long you can never find a date everyone is free. In our case our colleague Laura Reardon, from up the road at Durham Land Registry branch, came in and said: "right, let’s do this date!" –  it was close enough to not be forgotten about but not too short notice.

Then together with the young members’ regional convenors, we set the order of the day.. a Land Registry young members’ stall, a young members’ meeting, then over to the Passport Office for a floor-walk on the evening shift. The local management argued it would be disruptive, but our chair made the argument we've done it before and got approval from the top. This saved us because I don't think anyone would have come to see us if we were stuck in a room. We got about four new members that night… despite the fact the walk was a bit rushed and we didn't get round all the staff. We just talked about the various benefits and campaigns and how local PCS wanted more active members on evening shift as they don't get the same cover as the day team. We spoke to members one-to-one, or in pairs, rather than trying to address the whole group, and we ended up having some good discussions.

I would like to have the young members convenors back through at some point for both shifts. And try to find areas of the business that have a lot of young people, namely the apprentices we have taken on.

Don't be afraid to take ownership of making dates and pushing ideas. Don't be hesitant. Just do it!”

• Also see our previous report on how DWP Fylde recruited 242 members last year.

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