Organising for equality
UNISON is committed to achieving equality for all. One of the ways we promote equality is through self-organisation. Self-organisation brings together members from certain under represented groups – women members, black members, disabled members and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members. Self-organisation helps the union identify and challenge discrimination and build equality. It can be a way for members to get involved in the union, developing skills, expertise and confidence.
Why does UNISON promote self-organisation?
Trade unionism is all about organising workers around a common experience. We organise members in a number of different ways, such as by employer, by occupational group (home care workers, police staff, teaching assistants and so on) and by geography.
Self-organisation is members organising around their experience of prejudice and discrimination. Because prejudice and discrimination are deep-rooted in our society, women members, black members, disabled members and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members have traditionally been less visible in trade unions and under-represented in democratic structures. Self-organisation offers a way to address this.
It is sometimes thought that because the members of self-organised groups meet separately, self-organisation is separatism. It is not. UNISON’s self-organised groups are a well-established part of our organisation. They are actively involved in all the union’s mainstream work. They have a valuable role in ensuring that the union identifies and takes up equality issues, actively challenges discrimination and that our democratic structures reflect the whole membership.
Self-organisation strengthens UNISON. Self-organised groups may be the first point of contact with the union for members and potential members. Many members who become involved via a self-organised group go on to hold senior positions at branch, regional and national level. Self-organisation can and should be a vibrant and dynamic part of UNISON: welcoming new activists, encouraging participation and helping members take on other roles in the union.