Finsbury Park branch organisation report 2009

organiseThe Regional Council Secretary wrote to all branches, asking for their assessment of their branch’s work during 2009, and suggesting that they might address the following points:
- whether your membership grew or shrunk during 2009, and why you think this is
- any problems you have had filling reps’ positions within the branch’s area
- how effective your branch was during any industrial action in your area last year
- what recruitment activities you have organised
- any comments on how the union, either nationally or regionally, has helped (or not helped!)
- ideas for future improvements


Finsbury Park branch's report

In answer to your request I have done some membership analysis from our membership as it stood in May 09 (Just before LUL pay and conditions strike) and January 10. During this period we have lost 157 members going down from 1586 to 1429. As you know our branch is responsible for the organisation of cleaner grade members (with the exception of Camden Branch) and of this 157 reduction 102 were from the cleaner grades (65%) even though as of May 09 cleaner grades represented 35% or our branch membership. Therefore proportionally we are losing a much higher percentage of cleaner grade members and I think this has a number of causes. There is a high turnover generally in the grade for a combination of reasons but I believe there has been an attack on our representatives following the cleaner strikes from which we have never really recovered which means that our voice in the workplace has not been as strong since. The proportion of loss of members in the cleaner grade has been higher in the train depots for some reason -24% compared to -16%. on stations. Therefore it seems that we need an improved strategy to reverse this. Glenroy has put forward a plan to go out on the Initial Contract which has branch approval but with Initial winning the contract for the bulk of cleaning on LUL they will be the main employer for cleaner grades in the near future. We have no recognition rights with this company vis a vis ISS so I think we need to call a meeting urgently with them to re-seek recognition or attempt to TUPE the recognition we have with ISS. It is impossible to coordinate our efforts on our own and I think there should be a joined up regional plan that should fit in with branch recruitment plans or vice versa. We need operational grades to support cleaner grade activists and identify reps and support them. We struggle to cover the amount of disciplinaries etc for cleaner grades so I think we need the discussion at region on how best to achieve this and we need to fund it properly and ask for assistance in the short term to cover loss of earnings etc as we struggle to cover disciplinaries by cleaner grade reps alone. So in essence we need a clearly mapped out and funded recruitment strategy for cleaners and obviously the cleaner grade committee should be involved in this. At the moment it seems completely disjointed.

Within our LUL membership our train grade membership has held up really well losing only 7 members over this period the main problem seems to be station grade membership. I need to do some more analysis on the specific groups but I think we have a strong representative presence in all depots in our area although the reps at Brixton Depot are inexperienced and need support which we are providing. A lot of our strength or weakness ultimately comes down to how proactive and capable our reps are in my opinion and this should be the focus of how we build the union the same as the cleaner grades. No amount of campaigning or rhetoric substitutes for well educated and active reps on the ground who challenge and are seen to challenge management and win for the members. Arnos Grove and Seven Sisters are a good example our membership has increased over the last few years.

This leads into you next question we have filled all LUL rep positions in our branch area with the exception of Brixton Group. Which we have now. For some reason this area has been hard to get a rep to come forward. The GSM is particularly aggressive as is the management team so stage two rep support would be useful in this area. We need to redouble our efforts in our groups particularly with the threat of major changes to their organisation. Our flagship group in terms of membership density is Finsbury Park Group which again has a tradition of strong active reps and is really self organising. This is the model we need to try and encourage round the combine. We had a particular problem on Green Park Group with our rep stood down for most of the year and maybe failed to fill the gap adequately but the newly elected reps are doing a good job at trying to reverse this situation. Local Newsletters are a key component too of bridging the information gap and we produce a regular branch newsletter which is crucial to maintaining the union message in the workplace in the face of a constant LUL propaganda barrage.

Our branch organised strong industrial action which was well responded to both in the Victoria Line campaign which saw the line closed down completely for the first time in history and during the main dispute which saw the Pic Line almost completely shut and many many more stations closed than any disputes before that I can remember. I think our branch reps, activists and members supported the disputes very strongly with some exceptions and again this is down to strong organisation on the ground. Particularly on the Vic Line the struggle saw many new and young activists stepping up to the plate which was really encouraging.

We have a number of elected officers who have their own budgets and to a great degree own autonomy including a membership secretary who has organised a number of visits during 09. On the whole we are pretty well organised but we could make some improvements and are currently working on a recruitment plan for this year.

In essence the main improvements required are in terms of assistance with organising low paid workers and in our area the cleaners. We also need to beef up the support and training of local reps and encourage a campaigning and militant approach that wins for members and will make the union stronger.

I have asked for input from other officers but have not received any so these views are my own.