Driving Prospect through the pandemic and beyond

22 September 2021

At the Energy Sector Conference, Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy spoke about how Prospect had risen to the challenges brought by the pandemic, safeguarding the union’s culture and how we are facing up to the new world of work.

Mike Clancy addressing Prospect energy sector conference 2021

Mike Clancy addressing Prospect energy sector conference 2021

The sort of union you want us to be

“I believe that what you want from your union is to be an expert in the workplace; delivering for members on their industrial agenda; being forward-looking but also respecting our past; you want us to be politically independent but politically influential; you don’t want us to be factionalised, you don’t want us to be like some other unions who dissipate their time on internal petty agendas.”

“I want to be absolutely clear that this will be a union that focuses on its members; it will be a union that is free from the behaviours of mobbing, which is sometimes amplified by social media; it will be free from bullying; it will be free from harassment; it will be free from misogyny; and it will be free from casual, or any other forms of, racism.”

“I am privileged to work for this union and even more so to be the general secretary. I do not say this casually, but I don’t want to work for an organisation that does not hold those values and I want to come to work every day to be accountable for them.”

When a pandemic strikes

“Let me be honest, our business continuity plan didn’t have a line saying ‘pandemic’… But magnificently, with the help of our IT staff, we moved online very rapidly.”

“Our Member Contact Centre went online; our negotiators and our organisers started to work with you. You got on with the job and we maintained continuity on behalf of members.”

“We were up and running within days and that is down to the investment in our infrastructure, to the staff generally and to how you all, as reps, worked with us too. Then, we got into our stride, and we began to innovate.”

“A colleague has just kindly said ‘thank you’ for the work we’ve done in terms of webinars, in terms of communications and I think we really did step up there.”

“We will continue to expand and innovate. We are investing in a new database, which will be one of the biggest investments the union will make in the next 10 years. So that we’ve got better data and can provide you with better information about how we recruit, and also retain members.”

Mike Clancy addressing Prospect energy sector conference 2021

Mike Clancy addressing Prospect energy sector conference 2021

The current gas price crisis

“Proponents of the free market are going to have some real pressures on their decision-making in the period to come because I think what we’re seeing is that utilities are like the banks: you have to step in.”

“Gas, water, electricity and, arguably, telecommunications are all staples. They are the basis of a civil society and as much as economists may wish to worship at the shrine of perfect competition and rational actors in a free market, life is not as simple as that.”

“It’s easy to be lambasted if you talk about public ownership and that is not an easy route from where we are, but public accountability for essential utilities is absolutely essential.”

“Our reliance on gas is coming home to roost and there are systemic issues that the government will have to address. The whole energy edifice is worthy of reconsideration, not least around new build nuclear.”

Membership and the state of our union

“In July, our membership grew to 151,000, the largest we have ever been. We’ve since seen a drop off since because there have been ongoing restrictions in aviation and quite a lot of restrictions in the creative sector.”

“Here’s the exam question: a lot of our members go to a physical space to work, but even a lot of those with operational roles will work from home more in the future… So how do we recruit, retain and organise in a situation where people are spending less time in the space where you previously communicated with them?”

“This is our membership challenge, and for the future of our union, I don’t want to see it turn into an existential challenge.”

“Right now, the union is in good shape. We can do the collective bargaining; we are representing members and we have got major infrastructure investments underway.”

“Most importantly, I can say that to good employers: will work with them, we will collaborate, we will make the industries better, we will make the profession better. To bad employers: have a go, if you dare.”


From generation to transmission, Prospect represents the interests of over 22,000 members working across all parts of the energy sector.