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New community membership campaign meetings – Edinburgh & Glasgow

23 Oct

Unite is the biggest trade union in the UK and Ireland, with 1.5 million members and over a century of experience in organising to stand up for our rights at work.

Now Unite wants to take the unions beyond the workplace and into the community.

Community membership offers the chance to join for people who wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to be part of a union because they’re not working – unemployed people, disabled people on benefits, retired folk or students. Community members get the support of the union with issues like free legal advice and access to training and education.

But it’s also bigger than that.  Being part of the union is about being part of a movement to build a better society. We want to bring people together who want to change something and who want to work with others to make their community a better place to live.

It could be something local like saving a library that’s closing or it could be a national issue like defending vulnerable people losing out through welfare cuts.

Unite will give you the support you need to build successful campaigns and groups – and make change happen.

To get things going in Edinburgh and Glasgow, we’ve organised our first meetings.  We want to bring together everyone who’s interested in organising and campaigning out in the community and has ideas about what we should do.

The meetings are open to all, so please come along and find out more.

Edinburgh: Saturday 27th October 2 – 4PM, St John’s Church, Princes Street, EH2 4BJ

Glasgow: Monday 29th October 6.30 – 8.30PM, John Smith House, 145-165 West Regent Street, G2 4RZ

 

For further information and to find out more about Community Membership, please contact Unite Scotland’s Community Coordinator, Jack Ferguson, on 0845 604 4384 or via email at jack.ferguson@unitetheunion.org

 

Rachael's Fourth Diary Entry- 1st May

1 May

I am back online!   It’s been a while since my last post, and I am now seeing the results of my efforts here’s what I’ve been up to…

I have spoken to more individuals aged 16-24, I decided that it would be beneficial to speak to members of Unite in this age category to see if their feelings and work experiences are similar to those not affiliated with a trade union. I was given the opportunity to speak to some members of the youth committee and found many similarities. There are clear frustrations felt within this group about the governments’ lack of support in assisting those under 24 years of age, with gaining employment that enables them to move up the career ladder. This has been the case, not just for this group but for everyone I have spoken to so far.  I feel that this is something that must be addressed, but how does our present government aim to rectify this if they continue to cut funding to schemes like The Future Jobs Fund without placing suitable alternatives in its place?

I also spoke to two other groups of young people who were being supported by organisations that aim to assist them with gaining transferable skills. It was pretty late into the project when I spoke to them, but the information they had given me was valuable and I felt a need to include it in my final report. It was highlighted by one group that minimum wage for those aged 16-21 is disproportionate and that trade unions have a role in explaining why this is. Upon further research I went onto the directgov website, and found that there is a £2.40 discrepancy between those aged 16-21, and no explanation as to why. To me, age does not equate to experience, thus there is no justification for a discrepancy in wages.

Everyone I have spoken to has felt hindered  by their job seeking efforts as employers in the service sector are driven towards recruiting those with extensive service sector experience, the young people were asking ‘why is this?’ Roles where no prior qualifications are necessary should have adequate and efficient training, which will enable any person to carry out that specific job role; Suitability for this kind of job should be decided after their probation period, not during the application process. This will give those without work experience a chance to get their foot of the career ladder.

What has become abundantly clear is that Unite have a role in informing those ages 16-24 of the support that is available to them, lack of knowledge is one reason that prevented the young people from utilizing this support as the majority of them had no knowledge of the role that Unite play in our society. It was evident however that the young members who are part of the youth committee spoke highly of the support they received, and felt that their involvement, particularly in the workplace made them feel empowered to address any work based grievances.

This week I will be tweaking my final report and will post it on here so you can all see the fruits of my labour. You will be able to view my documentary ‘Uniting to Forge Community Links’ above, let me know what you think! I will be posting some reflections on my research process next week, in case there are some readers who are undertaking their own research projects, you may want to see the areas that could present challenges.

Rachael's Third Diary Entry- 12 March

12 Mar

I have been learning so much about the research process since my last post; mainly that your research plan is just that! I was so worried as the interview part of my project has not been as I planned. I’ve realised that It’s impossible to stick to it religiously and it’s mainly there as a guideline. The important thing is to be reflective and rather than look at what has went wrong and what hasn’t; the main goal is to focus on the larger picture and use what data you have collected to form your judgements.  The information I have gained so far with my focus group and the group interview with a Glasgow based support organisation have given me so much to think about.

The focus group was a really interesting experience.  I found that it was relatively easy to get conversation flowing and to encourage the group to speak about their experiences. I decided to alter my questions a little so I could get more in depth answers from the participants, and I have found that if you ask questions that are focused more towards peoples’ experiences you will get a more detailed answer. Sometimes this kind of data is not always the most suitable for what you are trying to find out, but in this case of researching unemployment in those ages 16-24, it’s their experiences and feelings I am really keen to understand, rather than one word answers and yes or no responses that I may have got in a questionnaire. I also found that the focus group addressed issues that I had not thought of asking, so I decided to include them in the group interview I undertook in Glasgow.

I went to an organisation in Glasgow that supports those aged 16-24 in gaining skills that will assist them to gain employment; the group of people I interviewed had so much to say about their experiences. The most telling was that  the people in both the focus group and the group interview gave me many similar responses.  They were in agreement that work experience is lacking and this prevents them from getting past the application process and makes them feel very frustrated. It was also mentioned that they would like to see more training and job opportunities in a wider range of sectors of employment. What was also evident was that all of the people I have spoken to feel that they are not listened to by the powers that be, and feel that they may not be taken seriously if they were to address their issues to a governmental authority. I have also found that none of them were aware of what a trade union was and how they support those in work and also those without work or training. These findings have highlighted to me that supporting those without work, education or training is very much a work in progress.  It is not an issue that can be solved over night and will need a multi agency approach so that the needs of those I have spoken to and others can be met. I will be speaking to the Unite youth committee soon and I am looking forward to hearing their thoughts and feelings on their employment experiences, so more on this later.

On a completely unrelated topic, I was diverging from my uni work a couple of weeks ago and found the interview that Len McClusky did with the Guardian. It was an informative and eye opening read.  I can understand where he is coming from and the frustrations that are felt by those mainly in the public, but also private and voluntary sectors. David Cameron, in response to Mr McCluskys’ interview, mentioned that he was being ‘unpatriotic’ in his call for civil disobedience during the Olympics later this year in London.

I found myself thinking, what makes you patriotic? Everyone has their own views about what this word means.  By my definition, being a patriot is doing what is right by your country to enable the success, wellbeing and future of all of those who reside within her. Cutting the resources of much needed services, I believe is not a sign of patriotism; however I also understand that resources are not finite.  If any readers have not seen the interview you can find the full transcript here.   I’m really keen to know what you all think about this, leave your comments in the box below.

Rachael's Second Diary Entry – 23rd Feb

23 Feb

I hope you all enjoyed reading my first post, I was pleased when Pete Murray from Union News found my project and blog intriguing enough to ask me for an interview which I happily gave him. If you are interested follow this link.

I’ve told you a little bit about my background that lead me to approach Unite so now is the time to   fill you all in on my research process so far…

Since Unite had kindly agreed for me to delve into the issues surrounding youth unemployment I found myself thinking “where do I start!”…so the beginning seemed like a good plan. My title (of which I am proud as I have never been good at catchy titles) is ‘Uniting to Forge Community Links: Engaging with young people who are unemployed.’ That was the easy bit, “Where next?”, I found myself asking.

I have only been unemployed once in my entire (albeit short) working life.  I found myself having to leave a fashion retailer whom I will not name, as I felt the bitchiness and bullying was too much to bear.  Fortunately I obtained employment very quickly with another fashion retailer and that was the end of that!  (Maybe this is why most young people work in this sector; it was relatively easy for me to gain employment as I had no experience in doing anything else.)

There is not much I can glean from my own experience and I need to find a way to speak to young people who are experiencing unemployment.  As there are time and money constraints, I decided that the way forward for me was to first hold a focus group that addressed the key questions that Unite need answers too and also to compile a questionnaire to distribute to those aged 16-24 experiencing unemployment.  There are a plethora of questions of which I will not bore you … unless you ask me too, but to give you idea here’s a few:

‘Are you aware of Trade Unions and the support they offer in the workplace and also to those who are unemployed or retired?’

‘Where does your knowledge of trade unionism evolve from?’

‘Would you pay £2 a month for support if you were unemployed?’

I have also decided to ask ‘Does activism interest you? And Why?’.  I understand that not everyone feels the need to have a rally cry on issues that affect them but some do. I’ve always wondered what makes people be active in their choice of cause…what makes you feel the need to be an activist?

My focus group will be running this week so I’m hoping to get some interesting thoughts from my participants and perhaps some more questions that Unite and I have not thought of.  Do you have any? Again, please post below…

I will be compiling a questionnaire in the next week or so that will be made available to a number of individuals residing in Glasgow and East Ayrshire, aged 16-24 who are experiencing unemployment and hopefully then I will get a clearer idea of their experiences and what can be done to support them.  If you, or anyone you know who would be interested in taking part, send me an email.

Aside from this, I have been contacting a myriad of youth employment support organisations and am still waiting to hear back from a few. I never realised how difficult it would be to arrange to get a load of questionnaires filled out! I had grand plans for single-handedly gaining all this information from all these young people and giving Unite a fabulous piece of work with which they could expand on, and now I am realizing that I am just a little paint stroke in a bigger painting and many of these organisations may have more important things to do than helping an enthusiastic student with a research project!

Rachael's First Diary Entry – 15 Feb

15 Feb

Since this is my first blog post let me introduce myself and my reasons for hijacking unitescotlands’ webpage! So get your tea and biscuits ready and I’ll tell you a little about myself.  My name is Rachael and I am currently studying Criminology at Glasgow Caledonian University.   For the last 3 years I have been studying not only why some individuals choose to commit crime and what constitutes as criminal act, but to be critical of the social world around me.  I am undertaking an assessed module towards my final degree called Community Links.  The aim of this module is for students to engage with community based organisations and undertake research on issues that have arisen with the chosen organisation.

I may hear you all cry ‘what’s that got to do with trade unionism’ and to be honest I found myself asking the same thing. When I was choosing my organisation I decided that I would gain more from studying a topic that I had personal experience of, so I decided to call upon my own experiences in the workplace to give me a starting point.

Instead of going to university straight after school I decided to work full-time and develop my skills in working with the public.  Although I have gained invaluable experience, I began to detest the working conditions faced by fashion retail workers.  I wish I could say all of my experiences in my 10 year education gap were positive, some of them were but the majority of my experiences were that some fashion retail managers use their position of trust to manipulate and bully those below them. I have been on the receiving end of bad working practices and have on more than one occasion witnessed bullying in the workplace and also been a victim of the same cruelty.

These experiences were very hurtful and in hindsight I am very ashamed and embarrassed that I did not stand up for myself and those I witnessed.  These experiences have made me think about the importance of trade union support in the workplace in supporting workers to be free of manipulation and bad practice. But why does this continue? It’s a sad state of affairs, but I would not recommend the fashion retail environment as a place for workers to gain confidence, as my experiences have illustrated to me that the retail sector is oppressive and detrimental to the future of younger workers, particularly to those who have never worked before and have no knowledge of their rights in the workplace.

My research process started with some brainstorming and after much discussion it was agreed that I should look into the issue of youth unemployment in Scotland. Whilst I was undertaking some background reading, I had found that youth unemployment as stated by the Citizens Advice recent report in 2011, ‘Being Young and being heard’ that East Ayrshire, my current residence holds one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in Scotland (15%). The rates of unemployment in this age category in Scotland shocked me, I did not realize the true state of affairs and am very keen to find out what is contributing to these high figures.

This began to dictate that my brief would be focused on understanding how Unite can engage more effectively with young people aged 16-24, who are unemployed and not already affiliated with a trade union. This will help to identify why this age category is low in membership but also what Unite can do to support those in this age category who are without work. This research will also address the Community Membership Programme (which offers reduced membership rates and support to those who are unemployed) and if it is a successful scheme, and furthermore how to maintain the impetus of this programme to ensure that it remains high on the Unite agenda.

I will be blogging on my findings and highlighting and further issues that have inspired debate in my mind.  If anything I mention makes you feel strongly, get your opinions posted! I’m really keen for those reading my blog to engage with me and give me their thoughts and we can use this page to spark some debate and get our voices heard.

You can contact me on: rmacle47@caledonian.ac.uk