Our phone banking experiences: ‘If we don’t get enough people to vote, nothing will happen’

Phone banking is a powerful tool in our campaign to maximise turnout in the pay ballot, and get comfortably over the legally required 50% threshold.

This year it’s been made easier with the new CallHub technology for making calls to remind members to vote, and the branch app for keeping track of who’s voted and who hasn’t.

Activate has spoken to two members who have taken part. PCS Advocate Kathryn Carruthers, who fits phone-banking into every spare minute she has and is aiming for the top of the ‘leaderboard’, and rep Dave Hansford, whose branch committee made an occasion of it by gathering for coffee, cake and phone banking.

Branch members were delighted when they heard they’d hit 50%

 

Kathryn Carruthers, Dundee Pensions Centre, DWP
‘I’m working up the leaderboard… I’m coming for the top three!’
 

Dundee Pensions Centre was the first branch in Scotland to pass the 50% turnout threshold – according to the figures collected from members’ responses to emails, phone banking and conversations at work – and they’ve since passed the 70% mark.

Advocates have a “massively important” role in helping with the campaign, says branch assistant secretary and organiser Angie Patullo, who added that Kathryn had been “an absolute credit to our branch and the union”.

Kathryn, who works in data protection team for retirement provision, first became active in PCS as a Union Learning Rep, but had to step back because of caring responsibilities. As an Advocate she can offer her time more flexibly, she says, and phone-banking is something she can fit in around other things:

“I spent a lot of time on the phone-banking on Saturday and Sunday. Then I got home from work on Monday at about 6.30pm, I went on to the phone-banking until my tea was ready, had my tea, then went back on til about 8.30pm. I made 100 calls in that time.

Some of them were not answered or were numbers that didn’t connect, some where I left messages and others where I spoke to the members. As I’m speaking to the member I’m putting the outcomes in and then as soon as I’ve finished I just hit ‘next’. The technology is fine and it’s dead easy.

I’ve been working up the leaderboard. I’m at the top for this week and in 4th place overall. I’m coming for the top three!

During the pay campaign I have also been doing leafleting, and I’ve used a lot of Facebook Messenger messages to contact members personally, asking if they have voted or sending links for replacement ballot papers. I search the names and look for mutual friends and then just message them.

The branch app is brilliant because you can see at a glance who has voted and who hasn’t, so you know who to target.

Our branch is very visible and pay is a massive issue here. There are people working in this office who are actually on benefits themselves – it’s shocking.

I was talking to someone who had been a member for about six weeks. They were worried about all the scaremongering about not being paid if we go on strike. The message I’ve been trying to get across is that we need them to vote. We need to get over that 50% so the government will talk to us. Otherwise they will think we are not bothered.

If we don’t get enough people to vote, nothing will happen.”

For the final push on getting the vote out, the branch has produced a video for sharing on social media.


Reps gathered for phone-banking in portsmouth (‘PCS Pompey phonebanking')
Left-right: Jon Hurst, Leanne Bradleyl; Dave Hansford; Sue Kennedy; Alison Mandrill; Debbie Morgan

 

Dave Hansford, R&C Portsmouth - Portsdown Vectis
“It was really good fun actually, so we went on and did some more.”

Dave, who deals with individual self-assessment at HMRC, says the branch is well aware how important it is for them to get a good turnout. They decided to start with a group phone-banking session by going round to vice-chair Jon Hurst’s house with coffee and cake, and setting themselves up on CallHub:

“It’s very simple technology. I’ve never been involved with phone-banking and none of my colleagues have either.

We did quite a few hundred calls between us. I did about 85 calls in two hours. There was a script to follow, although there is some leeway with that.

Most people who answered were friendly and were happy to see that PCS was calling them.

From a user’s point of view it was very smooth. It was really good fun actually so we went on and did some more and several hundred calls were made. I also did two phone-banking sessions whilst at the HMRC Group GEC in London, on 9 and 10 April, along with colleagues from around the country.

I have found it quite easy to do, like chatting to a member face to face. We just ask them if they had received their ballot paper and if they had voted. Some people volunteer information on how they are going to vote, but we don’t ask for that.

Our branch has also got a structure in place for leafleting each day and on how we are going to engage with members. We engage quite regularly on the doorstep of the building.

Pay has been squeezed so tight over the last 10 years. We have quite a few people on tax credits who work full-time here.

I’m hoping this extra organisation is going to get us over the line.”

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