The joy of joining

I’ve been thinking about what made me an activist in the union all those years ago. Not surprisingly, it was a combination of things.

One was being asked to take on a role – surprise, surprise as secretary – and the mentoring and friendships made on my branch committee, and later on divisional committee.

Another was participating and learning about the union at Women’s Conferences.

Looking back, the most important reason was being asked to participate. All the others flowed from that.

We recruit members and retain members when we ask: ask them to join; ask you to help with a simple task; ask people to an event, a training day, or a freelance fair.

“Ask non-members: Have you joined BECTU yet? We need you to make sure we can all get this better deal”

BECTU provides a number of avenues for learning about the union and developing your skills as a union representative. The training department run an impressive array of courses under the two broad headings of “Trade Union Education” and “Vocational Education”. Some are brought to your region or workplace, some are held in head office.

Training is a vibrant and exciting service of the union to its members. One of the easiest answers to colleagues not yet in the union who ask what it provides is: “Look at our Training Courses. Any of them will help you increase your skills.”

BECTU has also recognised the unique issues facing women working in our industries. A survey of the media industry by Skillset, the Sector Skills Council for the Creative Media Industries, showed that 5000 women left the industry between 2006 and 2009. In that period just 750 men left.

A majority of the women were in their thirties: by my reading, women who had a number of years of skilled work behind them and for various reasons were finding the industry to difficult to stay in.

BECTU believes that finding and supporting these women before they leave the industry will insure that we have an industry that takes equality seriously. It’s why we hold a Women’s Conferences – which have also been key to increasing the number of women active in the union, on branches, in Divisions and at Annual Conference.

I believe also it has been a very successful tool at retaining women in the union. A lot of those women who left the industry did so because of redundancies and a shrinking workforce.

We know that there are tough times ahead, especially for freelance members.

That brings me to BECTU’s central role, which is to fight the industrial issues for all members: to go for the best pay and conditions and working environment.

Most of the major employers want to shed permanent employees and have a freelance workforce. BECTU has been fighting hard, and with successes, to bring a fair and equitable working environment to the freelance market.

Our signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the BBC for a Freelance Agreement has been a hard-fought win. We aim to improve the working environment of our members working for the BBC as freelancers and to set a national standard of pay and conditions.

As part of this Memorandum, a standardised recognition agreement and process have also been agreed, to deal with pay, hours and holidays where BECTU can demonstrate they have at least 35 per cent of a workforce in membership.

BECTU’s ability to demonstrate membership to managements is key. It is key to our wining improvements; to our ability to represent members; to our survival as a union.

In my experience some non-members assume the industrial benefits will come to them, whether they join the union or not.

But if we don’t reach that magic number of 35 per cent we won’t be able to negotiate under that BBC Memorandum of Understanding – and pay, hours and holidays will fall behind, for them too.

We need our members to say to those who want the benefits but don’t want to pay the dues that their idea of a free ride risks making things worse for everyone, not just them.

And for those who just haven’t thought about it yet, we need to just start asking everyone, “Have you joined BECTU yet? We need you, to make sure we can all get this better deal.”

Categories: BECTU, Broadcasting

Picture of Christine Bond