How do we organise our retired members?
UNISON has over 160,000 members - more than 10% of our overall membership, so it’s no surprise that there is frequent talk of how we can be organised, especially as regards helping branches.
The Retired members organisation in UNISON is not a self-organised group (SOG). SOGs are for working members, so retired members are seen rather as a special category of membership. But there are many similarities, with branch, regional, and national levels of organisation, our own conference, and also relationships with external organisations through such groups as the TUC Pensioners Committee and the national pensioners’ conventions. So, not a SOG, but we do organise ourselves in a very similar way.
Many of us active retired members are also keen to assist our branches beyond the retired members organisation. And we know that many branches would appreciate help, especially with the current pressures on time-off and activist workloads.
There are three quick tips that I’d like to offer. For the more established and effective branches, these are probably standard operating procedure, but for those trying to build, or rebuild, their retired members organisation, I hope you will find them useful.
Tip 1. Work towards building a stronger relationship between the rest of the branch and the retired members. Something as simple as the branch secretary or another senior branch officer attending a retired members meeting a couple of times a year to listen to concerns and to report on branch business can make a real difference. The rulebook makes provision for the Retired Members Secretary to sit on the Branch Committee, but that can be quite limiting and formal.
Tip 2. Using the branch annual planning process can also help. Involving retired members reps in discussions about the branch year ahead means a chance to identify potential common activities, and allow for planned involvement of retired members. This should also mean a calendar of meetings and events that everyone gets to see and work towards.
Tip 3. Run a skills/interests survey amongst retired members. This can identify common interest groups and skills that the branch might be able to benefit from.
We all have to start somewhere, and there’s never been a more pressing time.