General Secretary's letter to branches launching 'Build the Union'

8 March 2013

Dear colleague,

FAO All Branch and Local Association Presidents, Chairs and Secretaries: 'Build the Union' Campaign:

I am writing to you to update you on the launch of a major organising campaign, titled 'Build the Union', initiated by the NEC's recruitment, organising and campaigning committee ('ROCC') and to ask for your help.

This campaign has three strands:

  1. a major new initiative to recruit local contacts in every work area.
  2. an ongoing, nationally coordinated recruitment campaign
  3. a new set of resources to help branches build effective relationships with their members.

1. UCU in every workplace

UCU is launching a new drive to increase the number of our members who are doing something active and meaningful for our branches, members who are then potential future reps.

The Recruitment and Organising committee (ROCC) of the NEC has launched this campaign following the latest report by Professor Jeremy Waddington. In brief Professor Waddington's survey showed that members are more likely to participate in industrial action and other union activities when there is a 'face of the union' in their immediate workplace.

Yet, as every branch officer knows, even the most supportive members are often uneasy about becoming a full UCU representative. As a result, in too many departments and workplaces there is no local UCU contact.  In these circumstances, the workload of branch officers goes up and up and the union misses the opportunity to organise and recruit.

ROCC has some simple objectives: to increase the number of members who come forward to play an active role; to create a pool of people who may go on and become future reps; and to increase the 'on the ground' visibility of UCU at every level.

We are proposing to do this by working with you to recruit new 'local contacts'. In brief, a local contact is someone who:

  • agrees to put up UCU posters and distribute leaflets and newsletters round staff rooms and departmental colleagues
  • agrees to act as a point of contact between the branch and the department: passing information about issues in the department up to the branch and making sure they are taken up; distributing information from the branch to members and non-members
  • may be prepared to ask non-members to join, either by emailing them, leafleting their offices or possibly door-knocking.

Many of you will already have people who are in this role in your local work areas and departments. But we're now aiming to build on this good practice by recruiting more contacts more systematically, in partnership with our branches.

How we will support you:

UCU's campaigns team will contact members who have expressed an interest in getting more involved in the union, asking if they would be prepared to take on the role of local contact. We will then pass the names of these contacts to you so you can follow them up. To reassure you, no one will become a workplace contact without your agreement as the branch leadership.

When we send you the names and contact details of potential contacts, we would like you to look at which work area the member is from and wherever it is possible, and especially if there is no existing workplace rep, to contact the member welcoming them as a local contact.  You can copy a model text to use here. [27kb]

How you can help:

We would also like you to map your departments and workplaces and identify the places with no contact. We would then like you to write to all the members in those workplaces asking for volunteers to become a contact (or a rep). You can copy a model text to use here. [28kb]

I will be in touch with you about this again soon but in the meantime, please read more about 'UCU in every workplace' here.

2. National recruitment drive

You will already have seen the recruitment work taking place across the union in our regular branch and member communications. This includes a nationally coordinated campaign of mailshots to non-members. But as you know, there's no substitute for effectively organising recruitment in the workplace. You can find lots of resources to help you with this work here.

3. Build the Union resources

We are today launching a new online resource containing resources to help branches share best practice in communicating with their members and to ensure that members are participating effectively in the life of our union. I'd encourage you all to have a look and feed back to us, but we will contact you with regular features introducing our key new resources in more detail. The website can be accessed here.

Our future as a union able to protect our members in these hard times depends on how well we succeed. I can promise you that the national union will be providing every possible resource to help branches in this vital task.

Thanks for taking the time to read this email.

Sally Hunt
UCU General Secretary

Last updated: 29 October 2019