(b) Gaining influence in the workplace

The PSA seeks a constructive relationship with employers whereby both parties can advance their respective interests – whether shared or separate – using the Partnership for Quality strategy. The central role of delegates in this work is explained here

The following “dual axis” diagram shows how the Partnership for Quality strategy balances priorities and achieves results simultaneously on the two fronts of Building union organisation and Engagement.

The Dual Axis

Building union organisation

To maximize our effectiveness, the PSA needs to build union organisation. The horizontal axis relates to the first part of the union objective ‘to build union organisation’ which aims to:

Increase union membership density
– to have the vast majority of eligible employees as members of the union, that is, 80–100 percent of staff as members of the PSA.

Elect delegates
Delegates are the key to union organisation. A good ratio of delegates to members ensures good representation; a working principle is to have one delegate to twenty members but this ratio is indicative only and delegate representation should always be appropriate to the workplace.
Delegates need to be supported by members in their workplaces, and they need to be trained and to work as a team with other delegates

Have good union workplace structures
This means
- regular meetings of members, and
- good communication systems, i.e. efficient journal distribution, a PSA noticeboard, email contact and union newsletters, as well as regular meetings of delegates, and regular contact with PSA staff.

Operate democratically as a union
Members need to be involved in the union and have their say. The election of leaders (delegates) takes place regularly through members meetings.

Engagement

The PSA uses its partnership approach to gain greater influence for members in the workplace. We seek to engage constructively with the employer, where we can, to advance members’ interests and improve services.

The vertical axis relates to the union objective of using Partnership for Quality when engaging with the employer to address issues in the workplace. Engagement needs to be regular and at all levels of an organisation (i.e. with immediate managers and team leaders through to senior managers and the chief executive) to build:

Leadership
= delegates providing a leading role in the workplace meeting with managers and ascertaining the collective views of members and representing them.

Participation
= involvement by PSA representatives in working parties, committees, forums and other workplace initiatives.

Agenda
= ensuring that matters of strategic and practical importance to union members are put forward proactively by union representatives; that union representatives clearly respond with members’ views on matters raised by management.

Structure and process
= an agreed arrangement that allows for union representatives to meet and hold regular and structured dialogue with managers, and operating with agreed ground rules.

 

Role of the organiser

Organisers are a vital and integral part of the PSA team. Their role is to organise members into an effective collective in order to gain maximum influence for the good of all members through the union. In this, their main task is to support delegates in building union organisation and engaging with the employer. While organisers will from time to time deal with issues where these are beyond the expertise of delegates (e.g. working with individual members who have particularly difficult problems in the workplace) they are focussed on building the systems, and providing the knowledge that assist delegates in raising, advancing and resolving issues as a collective organisation.

Their role includes:

  • recruiting members;
  • recruiting and developing delegates;
  • expanding membership participation in the workplace;
  • monitoring and assessing PSA’s success in enterprises;
  • managing collective bargaining;
  • managing employment relationship problems;
  • managing relationships with employers;
  • promoting PSA strategies.

SEE APPENDIX: Organiser Job Description

See also The organising function.