Organise in your workplace

What is ‘organising’?

You’ll notice that we often talk about recruitment and organisation in the same sentence. But what exactly does organising mean? In an environment where some employers strongly assert their rights to the disadvantage of employees, it’s crucial that union members work together to resolve issues at workplace level.

People work together in clubs, churches, schools and communities because it gets results. So working together, or organising, makes sense. Organising is all about:

  • identifying issues that will activate members and engage potential members
  • involving members in decision-making on major priorities in the workplace
  • supporting local workplace representatives
  • developing the skills of local representatives in performing their role
  • generally improving communication with members.

Prospect employs a team of organisers to help branches work in this way.

Organising around issues

This means identifying a current workplace issue that staff feel strongly about and using it as the focal point of your recruitment and organising effort.

It could be a reaction to an unpopular management proposal or a pro-active union campaign. It could be a major or an apparently trivial issue. As long as it engages the attention of staff, and Prospect is trying to do something about, it’s an organising issue:

  • publicise it: produce leaflets and posters, hold a meeting
  • tell people what you’re trying to achieve
  • make sure non-members are aware that they don’t have a say and can’t influence the outcome unless they join.

Potential members are more likely to sign up if they see that you’re working to resolve or improve something that affects them personally. You’ll also raise the union’s profile among existing members and remind them of the value of their membership.

Getting organised

Building up membership and keeping in touch with your members is vital for improving local representation and getting results in negotiations. However, the process doesn’t happen all by itself.

Prospect can’t organise everything from the centre – we need you!

Be clear why you are targeting a certain group or area: Will it increase Prospect’s membership? Will it help the union to make progress on important issues for your membership? What are your goals?

Set short and long-term objectives: Above all, be realistic. Have a plan, but be flexible – your best opportunities aren’t always in Plan A or even Plan B!

Manage your time: Timing is crucial. Are you arranging a one-off event or an on-going campaign? Have a timeline to guide you if you need it.

Research and canvass opinion: Find out as much as you can about the target group and the issues facing people. Make no assumptions. Use the knowledge of people around you and don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues and your organiser about experiences elsewhere.

What resources can you use? Remember that your members are resources and different people have different skills. Will your employer support you too? Great if they do! Make sure to ask…

Share the work out: Volunteers on your committee can share organising tasks, from simply communicating with members to arranging meetings and escalating actions. You probably can’t be in every one of your members’ workplaces – but you can have your people there!

Build relationships: Everywhere! And with everyone who could help you: managers, Prospect officers, organisers and Prospect volunteers in your own branch. Don’t wait until you need something specific – it’s always easier to approach someone in a time of need if you’ve contacted them before.

Keep momentum: Once you have something going, keep energy levels as high as you can – refresh communications, think of new angles, involve new people. The more varied your communications, the more people you are likely to get interested.

Review and plan for the future: Be honest about the challenges you faced and what worked and what didn’t. Talk things through and learn for next time. Don’t be disheartened if some ventures don’t work out: you learn valuable lessons from failure as well as success!

Thanks: Don’t forget to thank those around you who played a part, no matter how small. Give yourself praise too, and celebrate your achievements.