An organised workplace is more than just a loose collection of individual members who happen to share the same employer. GMB's concern must be more than simply recruitment.
Our union's strength comes from building strong workplace organisation with good communication and enough Representatives. Workplace Organising is about being good at recruitment, retention and representation.
Our goal is the strongest possible GMB organisation in every workplace; where GMB Workplace Organisers are experts at recruiting new members, representing members and keeping members in GMB.
In these workplaces GMB members are in control of the union and set the agenda collectively, speaking with one voice not many. The Workplace Organisers know more than their employer does about who is coming and going and how the workplace is organised.
The GMB@Work National Organising Strategy and the training we give our Workplace Organisers is built on five policies:
1. The workplace is the building block of GMB
The workplace is where we are best able to protect our members and improve their working conditions.
Campaigning, media work, legal work and political work in the union offices and in Whitehall and Westminster are important but they can't deliver for our members if the union is weak and ineffective in the workplace.
2. Each workplace should be organised as if a ballot for action was due
On the rare occasions when employers don't listen to GMB and our members want to ballot for industrial action, the union needs to be very highly organised to meet with all the legal requirements. This means we have confirmed our members' correct addresses, they are fully paid up, regular members meetings are held and regular newsletters are distributed and non-members are being approached to join to support the union. GMB policy is to aim to organise every workplace like this, every day.
3. The employer has different interests than our members
As a union we will sometimes make common cause with an employer to get more funding from government in public services for example. But GMB recognises that on a day to day basis it is the bosses who employ our members who cause most of their problems and that people join us to resolve those problems.
4. It is the process of industrial relations that builds the union not the result
Few people join GMB out of gratitude for a good pay deal in the past or for protecting a colleague from unfair dismissal. Most people join GMB and get active out of fear of what is happening to them today and in hope of what can be achieved through the union tomorrow.
5. People are strongest when they organise themselves
Our members are GMB so they must organise themselves around the problems that they and potential members face wherever they work, be it a factory, care home, school or office. GMB wants its members to control GMB where they work as much as possible and will support this process through the work of full time GMB Organisers, GMB Branches and GMB@Work training.
Your plans to build the strongest possible union where you work should be based on the following five Workplace Organising goals:
1. GMB Campaigns
Members and potential members need to know what GMB stands for where they work. Instead of waiting for management to propose changes and then responding, GMB members at work should have their own agenda, always keeping the employer on the back foot responding to our members' claims. GMB Reps must involve all members in decisions that affect them, giving members a vote on every issue we can and asking them to get involved in their union in any way they can.
2. GMB Communications
Potential members should be aware GMB exists and is active where they work. GMB members must make sure everyone in the workplace knows what we are campaigning for and how to get involved.
Wherever possible workplaces should adopt their own regular newsletter to keep members informed and involved, to use as a tool for bringing new members in and to deliver better, more local information more quickly.
3. GMB Contact
Potential members should not only know how to join but should be approached regularly by a GMB member at work, told about GMB and asked to join. GMB Representatives in each workplace should know who is starting and who is leaving the job, who is a member and who is not and use this information to talk to potential members in their area regularly about the unions' work. This Workplace Mapping is a central part of the Workplace Organisers role.
4. GMB Credibility
It should be made clear to potential members how GMB can be a solution to the problems they face at work. Our credibility at work depends on the strength of our organisation and the skills of our Workplace Organisers to find ways to include members in gaining improvements on local issues and building the union in the workplace.
Credibility also depends on being honest with our members and trusting them to make the right decisions together. Members must be involved in setting GMB's agenda in each and every workplace and they must know where to go and who to contact if they need help, advice or representation in their workplace.
5. GMB Commitment
Everyone at work should see GMB as being a part of the workplace and in it for the long term. We should avoid here today gone tomorrow 'recruitment drives' and make a long term commitment to building the union in every workplace around the real issues people at each workplace face.
You have already demonstrated your Commitment to build GMB where you work by coming forward to be a GMB Workplace Organiser and you should make sure everyone at work knows the union is confident, optimistic and a permanent part of the furniture in your workplace.
Some techniques for achieving the five organising goals are set out in more detail in the next section.
People at work will judge the union by what you say to them and how you say it.
If you have no communications plan where you work people will get their news about GMB from their managers and supervisors.
There are a number of ways you can get your message out and some will depend on what it is you have to say. You should consider the following:
- Face to face discussions.
- Mass meetings.
- Writing to them at home.
- Distributing a newsletter in the workplace. A dedicated website.
- SMS text messaging.
- Employer e-mail or intra net system.
- Notice boards.
Your GMB Office will be able to supply you with a GMB Notice board Tool kit which includes posters for display where you work. A sample workplace newsletter is included in our web page Organising for Recruitment.
Each of the above methods has advantages and disadvantages.
In practice the two methods most often used by workplace organisers are face to face discussions and workplace newsletters.
You will get more details and support on deciding your plan to let people know about GMB at your future training courses.
GMB policy is to ensure every GMB workplace has a regular newsletter produced and distributed by GMB members and GMB Workplace Organisers. Click here to visit our newsletter templates.
- Check who else is involved in producing a GMB newsletter where you work.
- Make your newsletter informative and relevant to the current issues people are facing where you work.
- Use your newsletter to encourage non-GM B members to join by letting them know what is going. Include your contact details and details of work place and branch meetings.
- Make the main headline of your newsletter the main issues where you work.
- The newsletter does not need to be glossy or be printed professionally.
- It is better to have a two page newsletter which comes out every few weeks than a 20 page newsletter that comes out once a year.
- Make sure your newsletter is delivered by hand to your members in the workplace.
One of the most important tasks of GMB Workplace Organisers is to know their workplace and, if possible, know it better than their management. This will be simpler in some workplaces than others, but to help GMB Stewards this tool kit contains a sample form to help them identify:
- Who are GMB members, potential GMB members or other union members
- Which GMB members are active in the workplace and will support GMB's Workplace Organiser. The type of workers, full-time, part-time, temporary and casual in the workplace.
- The make-up of the workforce such as gender, age and multiple languages etc.
- The shift and rota patterns in the workplace.
- All agreements, contracts and policies that apply in their workplace.
- The location of managers and supervisors.
- Who has just started at the workplace
- Who is working their notice and just about to leave.
GATHERING ALL THIS IS CALLED 'MAPPING THE WORKPLACE'
You will need to get some of this information from your employer, for example who are starting and leaving.
The best way GMB Workplace Organisers can map the workplace and understand the issues faced by members, is to introduce themselves to GMB members, non-members, new starters and management in the workplace after they are elected and regularly from then on. A good way to do this is to take your workplace newsletter around with you and talk to people as you give it out.
If GMB Workplace Organisers are able to talk with members and potential members on a one-to-one basis that is always the best option but in larger worksites meetings or circulars might be easier and more effective.
Also by talking directly to members' and the workforce it can provide a chance to identify and respond to any concerns that workers may have about trade unions, including any negative experiences they may have had with unions before.
Two forms you can use to begin mapping your own workplace are included at the end of this section. Pick the version that suits your workplace best and photocopy as needed.
USING YOUR WORKPLACE MAP
Your workplace map is not a snap shot to be sent to your Branch or Officer but a working tool to put you in a position to build GMB.
Because every workplace changes whether it is workers changing jobs, retiring, changes to work patterns, new laws and polices or new active members in the workplace, it is vital that GMB Workplace Organisers regularly update their Workplace Map, because GMB's credibility relies on Workplace Organisers maintaining their knowledge about the workplace.
GMB Officers also rely on Workplace Organisers to let them know GMB's strength in each workplace.
The point of a workplace map is to use it to make GMB stronger. Having identified people that have just started or are about to start and people about to leave for example you will need to act.
Many employers will hold induction meetings or training courses for new starters during work time and in the workplace. These can be few and far between however and some people only attend them many months after starting work. This is a really good place for you to introduce yourself and GMB and sign people up.
Most recognition agreements GMB has with employers give GMB access to these induction meetings. If your agreement does not include this just ask management if it would be possible. If they refuse contact your GMB Organiser.
TIPS AT INDUCTIONS:
- Make sure you ask everyone to join GMB.
- If possible ask any managers to leave the room. Give yourself 20 minutes.
- Welcome your new colleagues on behalf of GMB.
- Make sure you get the name, job title and work location of everyone that is at the meeting/on the course.
- Make sure you give everyone a membership form and a pen.
- Tell people about the current work of the union in the workplace.
Where possible avoid doing joint presentations with other trade unions.
Workplace Organisers need to look at keeping members in GMB as well recruiting new members and representing them well.
In most workplaces where people are leaving to start a new job, they tell their employer about a month in advance. This means that your employer can tell you at any given time who is about to leave your workplace.
If this is not a part of your current recognition agreement with the employer just ask your manager for the relevant information and raise it at your next meeting to be given to you on a regular basis. You may seek the help of your GMB Officer to do this.
ONCE YOU HAVE FOUND OUT WHO IS ABOUT TO LEAVE YOUR WORKPLACE
Ask each person working their notice where they will be working next. If it is a workplace where GMB is recognised, give details on the Membership Transfer Note you send to your GMB Officer.
If they are going to a workplace where GMB is not recognised, ask them to fill in a new GMB form with their bank details to set up a direct debit payment and send this to your GMB Officer with the Membership Transfer Note.
A blank Membership Transfer Note is shown below.
MEMBERSHIP TRANSFER NOTE
Please ask any GMB member who is leaving your workplace to fill in this form and give it back to you. Then send it on to your GMB officer.
DATE OF TRANSFER:
We are best able to build GMB at work when we campaign on the issues people feel strongly about where they work.
Research into our own membership tells us that only three per cent join GMB for the financial and individual services we offer, though they are valuable reasons for people to stay in GMB even when they don't have current problems at work. Three quarters of new members say they join GMB for help in sorting out their problems at work, because as we know very few workplaces are perfect.
So the first step for a GMB Workplace Organiser looking to build the union where they work must be to find out about what members and non-members are talking about where they work.
The key point to remember is that your members and non-members will judge GMB on how we tackle the issue you choose to campaign around. So choose your campaign issue carefully.
This can be done in a number of ways, but most GMB Workplace Organisers pick up information from regularly talking to colleagues, by updating their workplace map or when distributing their workplace newsletter.
It can sometimes be useful to conduct formal surveys of GMB members and/or non members to find out which issues are of most concern. Surveys should include contact details for those involved and ask only a few questions on a small number of issues.
The kind of workplace campaigns you could run could include:
- Health and safety issues such as working temperatures, safety equipment, working hours, stress at work and work-life balance.
- Pay campaigns in support of your local or national pay claim.
- Campaigns against bullying and harassment.
You can use any number of campaign tactics from gathering and submitting petitions and organising sticker days, to conducting consultative ballots and taking direct action.
KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER
- Your campaign must have clear and winnable goals.
- Your campaign must be widely supported and understood.
- Your campaign must be visible in the workplace.
- Your campaign must involve people doing something to support it.
- Your campaign must be based on an issue identified by the workforce.
- Your campaign must include everyone affected including non members.
- Your campaign must be aimed at recruiting non-members.
- Your campaign must be focussed on the person/persons able to give you what you want.
- Your GMB Officer will be available to offer you advice and support with the campaign that you launch where you work.
- Consult your Officer at the first opportunity if your members feel that some form of direct action or industrial action is required as part of your campaign.
If you feel that your campaign needs you to go outside the workplace and include the press and radio, lobbies of politicians or demonstrations and stunts, the Campaigns and Media Department of GMB Head Office is there to help. Contact them through your GMB Officer before you speak to anyone outside your workplace.
Be aware that some employers may threaten to take action against any of their staff who go to the press. GMB can organise a campaign for you and protect the identity of members if necessary.
Signing people up to GMB is a central part of making GMB as strong and effective as it can be where you work. Too often GMB's power to change what employers do is undermined by having too few members to be effective.
You should use the campaigns and negotiations you are involved in to build GMB-but this, in the end, means getting used to asking people to join. Although GMB does not expect you to become a salesperson for the union, bear in mind the following tips:
- Get the person talking about how they feel about the work and any problems they face.
- Explain how the union can help with these problems.
- Explain what GMB is and what it stands for at your workplace.
- Tell them why you joined GMB.
- Give examples of people who are already GMB members.
- Give examples of how GMB, has helped its members in your workplace.
- Make sure you have application forms and a pen with you so they can join up on the spot. Sometimes people need help in filling out forms, so always offer to assist.
- If they have any questions about GMB, always try to find out the answer and make sure you come back to them.
- Wherever possible ask members to join by Direct Debit straight from their bank account. If they do not have their bank details with them on their bank card for example, ask them to sign section four of the membership form and check that they would be happy to give you their details over the phone later.
- Avoid discussing GMB's financial and personal services.
- If they don't want to join but say they'll think about it, make sure you go back to them in a week or so and try again.
- Remember: fewer than 10 per cent of people who tell us they will send the form in the post actually do so in the end.
- Don't get into a heated discussion with a person who is clearly hostile to the union.
- Welcome them to GMB when they join and make sure they know how to contact you if problems arise.
- Make it a habit to talk to your members’ one-to-one or in small groups about the job, the workplace and the union.
- Keep up the contact.
- If you can't get to talk to workers during working hours, you may need to talk to them at break times or before or after work.
- If you can't get hold of them during working hours, then keep in touch by telephone or e-mail.
People can join GMB on line by going to the website www.gmb.org.uk/join
One of the reasons recruitment can be difficult nowadays is because in many modern workplaces people have little or no knowledge or experience of trade unions. What people see on TV and read in the papers often forms their views. Since unions tend to make the news only when there is a dispute, many people believe that this is what they are all about.
Some of them may have prejudices or preconceptions about trade unions, it is best to be prepared to handle these objections before they arise. Here are some of the questions you might be asked and some ideas on how to answer them:
Why should I join GMB?
- Most people join GMB in case a problem arises at work. At some point in their working life most workers will have a problem at work they can't sort out on their own.
- Being in GMB means making sure you get help from people working around you when you need it, plus expert legal backing if necessary.
- You should also mention the work GMB is currently doing where you work on the problems people face with the employer: health and safety, pay, bullying and other issues.
What has GMB ever done for us?
- Be prepared for this question and mention successes in your workplace. Health and Safety, support for people in grievances or disciplinary meetings (remember to keep personal details confidential) legal action, improvements in pay, holidays etc.
- It is also important to spell out what GMB stands for and is campaigning for now and to invite them to join on the basis of supporting that campaign.
Why should I join if I'll get the same pay anyway?
- It is important to stress that, although they might get the same pay and conditions that GMB negotiate it is a matter for the employer and can't be guaranteed by GMB.
- However non-members will miss out on being able to have a say in how GMB negotiate for them. They won't get a chance to speak out or vote on any deals being negotiated. If they have any problems at work they are on their own.
- They can't call on the GMB Workplace Organiser or GMB officer to advise and support them.
- Non-members also miss out on legal benefits and services, like help from union solicitors.
- Every non-member in a workplace dilutes the strength of GMB's voice when negotiating with management.
If I join will I have to go on strike?
- Not unless you and your colleagues vote for it, reassure new recruits that strikes are very rare. A good tactic sometimes is to ask them to tell you the last time they remember a strike taking place where they work.
- GMB Workplace Organisers and GMB Officers work to settle disputes and prevent the situation developing into one where people feel they have to vote for strike action. In GMB we normally only have strikes when a two-thirds majority has voted for them in a secret postal ballot.
- GMB sees strike action as a last resort and it is only very rarely that our members take this step. However, in negotiation with employers you sometimes need to have an ultimate bargaining tool to get them to listen.
- The key point is to tell the worker that it is the members who tell GMB to go on strike and not the other way around.
I can't afford to join.
- Are you sure you can afford not to join, given the protection and benefits that GMB membership provides?
- Explain GMB subscriptions and what they provide and that GMB members at GMB's annual Congress democratically determine them.
- Explain that GMB subs fund our campaigning, legal and organising work and that all GMB organised workplaces can use these resources to help their campaigns.
- Point out that most people insure their house and their car and so should also make sure they insure their job.
We get on OK with management here, so we don't need a union.
- Don't disagree, but point out that management is made up of individuals who can be moved or leave and get replaced by less sympathetic persons.
- Today companies often get taken over by larger organisations, which have different approaches and attitudes to staff.
- There is no perfect workplace where problems never arise and where no one ever feels unfairly treated.
- Often companies set up in-house associations but they are rarely fully consulted or informed and do not have the independent voice that a union offers.
- Also, TUC surveys show that employers who recognise trade unions have better pay and conditions than those who don't.
I can look after myself, so why should I join GMB?
- Many non-union members say they could represent themselves at work. But think about it. If you are on your own, can you really:
- Face management and risk being victimised later.
- Get the support of your colleagues. .
- Understand disciplinary procedures and codes of practice.
- Pay to take your employer to court if you have an accident or are unfairly treated?
- If you join GMB you will have the backing of a strong, experienced organisation to advise, assist and meet the legal costs.
- GMB will not guarantee to help you with problems that arose before you joined.
I only work part-time, so what's the benefit for me?
GMB has a substantial and growing part-time membership. We represent over 150,000 part-time workers. They are entitled to a full range of GMB benefits. This is just some of the things we have done at GMB for our part-time members:
- Campaigned and won on equal treatment, pay and pension rights.
- Provided advice and legal cover.
- Fought for term time only workers' rights in schools.
- For people with more than one job, GMB membership will cover each job they do.
- For people with only one job, lower union subscriptions may apply.
Unions are for men, what can they do for women?
- Women play an important role in GMB. Almost half of GMB members are women and women formed two thirds of new members joining in 2006.
- Nearly 40 per cent of the members of GMB's Central Executive Council are women and over 25 per cent of GMB's Regional Officials are women.
- We also have Equal Rights Committees in each of our nine Regions.
- GMB has been at the forefront of the fight for equality in the workplace for many years and has won a number of equal pay cases.
I've worked here for years without belonging to the union, why should I join now?
- GMB can negotiate better terms and conditions the more members it has. Finding solutions to on-the job problems often depends as much on the amount of unity the membership shows, you may wish to say something like:
- "If everyone working here joined GMB a better deal could be won for all.
- By not joining you weaken the GMB's negotiating strength and everyone loses out:'
I'm too young to join a union, they are for older people.
- Young people need to join unions more than anyone else.
- They have less experience of work and so are less likely to know their rights and more likely to be exploited.
- They are discriminated against in their pay and benefits.
- The part time rate applies to everyone below the age of 18.
- GMB has a special Young Members' organisation at regional and national level which campaigns on issues that affect or concern young people, such as the national minimum wage.
If I join I think I will be sacked.
- The law protects anyone from any kind of attack or harassment from their employer for joining or even thinking about joining a union, for example going along to a meeting (section 152 of the 1992 TULRC Act*).
- However people still fear their employer's response and many are happier joining by Direct Debit until a large number of their colleagues are in the union and they achieve safety in numbers.
* Trade Union and Labour Relations Consolidation Act 1992. Refer to your GMB Law at work book or your GMB Officer for further details.
Not every member wants to take up union office or be an activist to start with. However lots of members will help GMB in some way if they are asked to.
Being a GMB Workplace Organiser can involve a lot of time and hard work, so don't feel you have to do everything yourself. Instead, encourage GMB members to get involved by helping out with small tasks or projects. This helps members identify with GMB and takes some of the work from you. It also helps you identify potential future Workplace Organisers.
Once you have a volunteer it is essential you give them something to do. Here are some examples of what volunteers could be asked to do:
Maintain GMB Notice boards.
- Help give out union materials and workplace newsletters.
- Organise collections for solidarity with GMB members who have been laid off or are taking industrial action elsewhere.
- Help out with transport to meetings.
- Don't overload volunteers, or they will be discouraged. It's more effective to start off by asking them (or getting someone they know well to ask) to do one limited task.
If this is successful, then ask them if they'd like to help out again in future.
YOUR GMB OFFICER
Each GMB Workplace Organiser has a nominated GMB Officer to call on for help and advice.
Your GMB Officer is there to support you, give advice and put you in touch with GMB's specialist Departments when you need them: Campaigns and Media, Health and Safety, Legal, Pensions, Equalities.
Your Officer will also be responsible for supporting GMB Workplace Organisers in many other workplaces. Overtime, they will help you build the skills you need to tackle most problems that come up yourself, with the support of your members.
Your workmates have elected you and will look to you for leadership.
In the eyes of your members, potential members and managers you are one of GMB's leaders where you work.
You also need to have credibility with management and supervisors and earn their respect.
How you appear to others:
- Be reliable.
- Be knowledgeable.
- Be supportive.
- Be calm, confident and committed.
- Be honest, know when you need to get more advice and where to get it.
- Listen to what the member, non-member or manager is saying.
- Show interest in the issue, problem or complaint that is being raised with you. Concentrate, don't allow yourself to be distracted.
- Don't interrupt.
- Ask questions if you are unclear about what a person is saying.
- If someone is agitated, wait for them to draw breath and then say something that shows you have
- Been listening, without necessarily agreeing with what they say, for example: 'I understand that you are very upset because you feel that..:'
You can't do everything yourself. Instead, break projects down into small tasks and get volunteers to help, for instance putting up GMB notices, handing out leaflets, getting the meeting room ready.
Lead by example. Be reliable yourself so that when you ask for help with a task they will respect your request.
Make it clear what you are asking them to do and make sure you thank them afterwards. If a GMB Official or Senior Activist visits, introduce volunteers and acknowledge their help.
Understand and promote equality:
GMB will not tolerate discrimination of any form from its Workplace Organisers or members. You should understand the cultural, racial and gender diversity of your members and promote unity; you should also be aware of GMB's obligations to disabled members. Equalities training may well be offered by your Region.
Our aim is to make sure that every workplace where GMB has members develops its own Workplace Organising Plan. When you produce your own Workplace Organising Plan ask yourself the following questions.
1. ACCESS: MAPPING YOUR WORKPLACE
- What is the workforce profile: gender, race, age, hours, pay, employment status, location etc? What are the issues facing this workforce?
- What is the level of membership in the workforce?
- What is the state of union organisation in the workplace?
- How does the employer view unions: recognition, representation, access, facilities?
- How reliable is our information?
- Are we listening to the right people?
- Do you have enough people to form an Organising Committee at work?
- What times and places will you speak to workers?
- Who is responsible for updating your notice boards?
- Is every section of your workplace covered by someone?
2. CHOOSING THE ISSUES
- What issues are we most able to resolve?
- What issues are the most deeply and widely held? What is our target for union members?
- What is our target for new Workplace Organisers? How will the success of the campaign be measured?
3. GAINING MOMENTUM
- What can we get workers to do to support the campaign?
- How will we let everyone know about the campaign?
- How will we keep people updated on progress?
- How will we encourage new Reps to come forward?
4. HANDLING YOUR EMPLOYER
- How do you expect the employer to react to your campaign?
- Can we and should we generate media coverage?
- Are there other community organisations that might put pressure on the employer?
- What leverage do we have over the employer?
- How can we put pressure on them?
- Will some form of industrial action be necessary?
- Are we clear about how the issues at the workplace might be resolved?
- What do we want the employer to do?