Activism is at the very heart of our union and as we
face the threats from a vicious and vindictive Tory
Government it has never been more important to organise
ensure our representatives are confident and skilled.
Conference responded to this challenge by setting
out a wide ranging strategy to train, develop and support
Moving the motion on behalf of the National Executive
Council, Grampian Health's Sandra-Dee Masson told delegates
that cuts to trade union funding and a loss of activists
through redundancy and job loss means that we have fewer
activists coming through.
"At the same time privatisation and fragmentation
mean that our new stewards are facing greater problems
with time off and accessing support. This combination
of fewer experienced stewards, fewer new stewards and
an attack on trade union education is a massive threat
for us," warned Sandra-Dee.
She said that we need to establish a comprehensive
and sustainable strategy for developing and supporting
our activists and building on UNISON's personal development
opportunities to identify more new reps, particularly
in hard to reach sectors.
However, although there are significant challenges
it isn't all doom and gloom, she said, citing examples
of good practice including the Scottish lay tutor training
model, where the region's education programme is delivered
by a team of lay tutors co-tutoring with regional organisers,
providing an excellent example of how training can be
delivered in-house without reliance on government funding.
However, more is needed. "Our growing membership
in the private and voluntary sector needs and deserves
a committed, well trained and supported activist base,"
said Sandra-Dee, adding that Learning and Organising
Services and regional education teams are working hard
to find ways around the challenges we face, "but
in order to make a real impact in terms of how we train
and develop our next generation of activists we need
branch leaders and activists on board as well."
"UNISON has always led the way across the trade
union movement in terms of its commitment to learning,
and was highlighted by Dave Prentis in his speech yesterday,"
"The attacks we are facing now provide us with
a challenge but more importantly a real opportunity
to place activist training and member learning at the
very heart of our union again."