Firstly, be under no illusions, union organising is a slow and frustrating process.
You will need to have a strong will to see it through, including, biting your tongue, watching your back, being prepared to stay with your company, even though many colleagues will be jumping ship for better pay/conditions!
But remember, it’s for the better good and unless more of us do it, there soon won’t be any better paying jobs anyway.
The basics to organising and getting union recognition are this;
1. Get directly employed, on the books with a company
2. Get to know your workforce, i.e. who you can trust
3. Keep a low profile, don’t become spokesperson too soon etc.
4. Get involved with your local union branch and get to know your local union Full Time Officer, they are going to be crucial when the time comes for balloting for recognition and for your protection
5. Spark up conversations with people, one at a time, as and when you get the opportunity, about working conditions,wages etc and whether they think a union could help?
6. When you’ve built up a head of steam, sometimes months later, start to build a sense of injustice in the way the workforce is being treated by the employer, highlight all the grievances that they’ve had and drop the seed about what could be achieved, if only we had union recognition
7. All the time, actively recruit people into the union, without union members, it will be impossible to gain recognition as you need 50%+ of the overall workforce to vote for it
8. Now, you’re ready to ballot for recognition, get you’re union officer on board and up to speed. It’s extremely important to get accurate numbers of workers, their details I.e. union membership numbers, trades, whether they are directly employed or agency.
Once you involve the officer, they will take charge and guide you on what to do next but as long as you’ve achieved 50%+ of the whole workforce in favour of recognition, you’ve got it!
Now, the real work of winning disputes and changes bad practices as well as fighting for better wages and conditions begins. The first thing you must do, in the weeks following union recognition, is putting yourself forward for election as shop steward/health and safety representative.
This brings with it valuable training for yourself and helps you to get those gains for your, now, members.
Always remember, we are stronger together and so, it’s important to keep the company of good allies, don’t allow yourself to be singled out and always take the moral high ground on every issue.
Be under no illusions, the company will come after you, it’s up to you to be one step ahead of them.
There are no friendly managers, only helpful ones that can make things easier for you but don’t get drawn into accepting bribes and always be aware that they are in their position because they have done anything to get there and they will probably be trying to get some personal gain from your position as steward, don’t fall for it.
Above all else, educate yourself, read up on trade union disputes, blacklisting, relevant tribunal wins, HSE bulletins etc, power is knowledge.
I hope this short guide helps and remember, there is an army of union members out there and you are not alone.
UNITED WE BARGAIN, DIVIDED WE BEG!