Marie McDonough, PCS DWP group organiser and DWP City of Sunderland branch Secretary writes.
Union organising is a key socialist principle that Left Unity is founded on and committed to.
2016 was a year when the Left Unity DWP Group has an organising record to be proud of but we are clear that there is still much more to do.
The backbone of organising is having trained reps in the office. The Left Unity GEC trained 160 new reps and 56 reps on personal cases.
There are now 1698 individual PCS reps in the DWP doing a job for the union and for members. Whilst this figure is very slightly down over the year, the key figure is that over 96% of members work in an office with a PCS rep to lead campaigns, tackle management and help members with problems.
To do their job our reps need information. The Left Unity led GEC has collected the personal data of over 80% of our reps and over 60% of our members so that we can get union information to them without relying on DWP email.
To be credible the union must reflect the diversity of the membership. Under the Left Unity led GEC for the first time ever, virtually 50% of PCS reps in the DWP are women. A figure replicated at group level by the election of our current GEC.
All of this good, sound organising work means that the DWP Group has been able to play a leading role in national campaigns on the CSCS and job cuts.
The Left Unity led DWP GEC is proud to have worked with Regional Organisers and branches to make our union well organised throughout 2016. The credit for much of this great organising must go to those regions and branches for working with the Left Unity GEC.
Despite these real achievements membership density has fallen after the end of check off to around 60% and this is where there is still much to do.
The Left Unity led GEC fully recognises and acknowledges the seriousness of the problem and has already taken plenty of steps to help branches recruit non-union members –
• We negotiated better rights for reps to recruit desk to desk for the first time.
• Branch briefings have been issued with recruitment materials
• A new hub has been put on the PCS website with recruitment and guidance
• Full Time Officials are being used to support branches
We are not complacent, we have been honest with branches about the problem and recruitment to PCS is now starting to pick up in early 2017.
Left Unity is clear that we have, and will continue, to provide help and support for branches but in the end recruitment can only be done on the ground in offices by our reps making it a priority.
Every branch and every rep must treat recruitment as their overriding priority. Personal cases are important but the real strength of the union comes from high membership density. There is much more to do, but by working together we can build our membership back up to the 70% that was common before the end of check-off.
Support Left Unity, Support a serious organising agenda that delivers for members and strengthens our union.