UNISON is a democratic organisation and branch annual general meetings are one way to make sure as a member that your voice is heard. But in the run up to their 2019 AGM, UNISON Hampshire Health branch had a problem. The branch posted out written invites to their members. But many of these letters were returned because the recipient was no longer living at the address held on the UNISON membership database.
This is a common problem. It sounds really obvious that a trade union should know where their members are and how to contact them. But members often move house, change phone number, close email accounts or even leave their jobs without telling their union. UNISON members work hard, they lead busy lives, and it makes sense that they don’t always remember to let us know. But with 1.3 million members, that’s a lot of records to keep up together and a lot of hunting down of absent members whose details are incorrect. And because our members’ lives are always changing, it’s a task that’s never completed.
UNISON Hampshire Health branch decided to make sure that when they ran their AGM in February 2020, the number of returns was much less. To help remind members to update their details, branch officers Ian Hambly and Gary Beechano delivered a series of prize draws across the second half of 2019. Entering was simple. All existing members had to do was update or confirm their contact details. This was their entry ticket for one of the 4 draws that were carried out periodically during summer and autumn – and their chance to win part of a £500 pot of gift vouchers.
As well as reminding members to update their details, these draw dates were carefully chosen to fall anniversaries that highlighted issues that the branch cared about. For example, the first draw took place on 21st July. This was the Sunday of the Tolpuddle Martyrs festival, which meant that the branch could take the opportunity to advertise their free coach to the festival and to educate members on one of the key events of the early trade union movement.
The October draw took place six months after the branch convinced Solent NHS Trust not to outsource their catering services to the private company Interserve. As branch secretary Jackie Dolphin reminds us:
In the climate of private is good/public health is bad, it’s crucial you remain a member. You never know when your service could be outsourced and you will need support during any consultation. We support you at the start of consultation, attend 1-1’s with you and most importantly, ensure your rights are protected.
In the context of cuts, crisis and privatisation, this win is still important to keep in mind. In tough times, it’s crucial to remember that where UNISON branches like Hampshire Health are organised, sometimes outsourcing can even be prevented.
For the UNISON Hampshire Health members who took part in the prize draw, the benefits were clear. They had the chance to win their share of £250 worth of gift vouchers. They got to learn more about some of the concerns, successes and interests of their union. And they got to make sure that the information they need to make the most of their UNISON membership is sent to where they need it.
Are your details up-to-date? Amend them online at myUNISON.