Organising 101: Recruitment

This is based on the training Emma Runswick delivered for BMA Medical Student Representatives. It has some use for all of us, but the chosen examples may not fit your environment.

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My name is Emma and I’m a Trade Union Activist. As elected representatives, you are too.

Our job is to build the strength of the union, so we can achieve more for our members. As students, we also have another job – to prepare our members for the challenges of work, and encourage them to stand up for themselves and become representatives as doctors.

We get our power from numbers, from the density of our membership. Like herd immunity, we are all better protected the more of us that are members. A representative of 98% of a medical school’s students has more clout than a representative of 65% of students. We also draw strength from the activity and engagement of our members. Where members tell reps about problems, and are prepared to act together to solve them, we have levers available that don’t exist with a passive membership. When there is competition for representative roles, reps have to show they are effective and accountable. So when we think about organising, what we aim for is full union membership, with significant activism and engagement of the ‘lay’ (not rep) members.

To achieve that, we have to stop thinking about recruitment and retention as something done by adverts and freebies. Recruitment is not a one-step job, nor one conversation. A rep may have to have several conversations over months to recruit somebody. More conversations would be required to recruit a member into activity. Other conversations are required to retain members when things inevitably go wrong, or when members have joined for free in freshers’ week and have no idea what the union does. Organising is an ongoing and constant process, which we all have to engage in all the time.

To assist you, it may be useful to develop a script. Mine goes something like:

*Pick something relevant to them – for pre-clinical students, a good example is UKMLA; for clinical students, travel bursaries, UK Foundation Programme Office, disability adjustment in exams; for junior doctors, contracts and training; etc.

Recruitment is not just a job for freshers’ week and inductions, though you should go to these. Like recruits like – you will recruit members far better and far more usefully than most BMA staff, because you know what it is like and what they need. Recruitment is also for teaching, grand rounds, medical formals, lunchtime, coffee breaks, and general conversations. Ask final year students if they have their contract or rota, if they have checked it using the BMA tools, if they are a BMA member. Ask your colleagues what they think of UKMLA, how much travel has cost them this block, whatever. Slip it into conversation. TELL PEOPLE YOU ARE THE BMA REP. Wear your lanyard and badges.

Organising is essential if we want our union to be strong. We can all play a part in that.

You can get materials for recruitment – leaflets, free stuff – from https://www.bma.org.uk/about-us/how-we-work/local-representation/local-negotiating-committees/promotional-materials

You can also access rewards for recruitment by joining the Ambassador Scheme: https://www.bma.org.uk/membership/bma-ambassadors

Those wanting to be active can have a look at this https://www.bma.org.uk/about-us/get-involved/represent-and-volunteer

 

Addendum Issues:

Junior Doctors’ Contract: sympathise! They are right, we didn’t do as well as we would have wanted in that dispute. However, we took an organisation that hadn’t struck in 40 years on strike, and we won significant concessions. If you compare the initial contract ‘offer’ to the one imposed, you can see how effective striking and negotiating was. We weren’t prepared for an industrial dispute that big, and if we want to do better, we have to be more organised, and we have to be stronger. We need you to be a member, and then people like us can change the union so we never give up a mandate like that again.

Chris Day/whistle-blowing: nobody really knows what happened there, even Council members like those on the Broad Left. However, everybody now agrees that we do have whistleblowing protection if needed from detriment by our training provider. Now, we need to be acting to make sure nobody has to whistle-blow. We work in understaffed and unsafe environments, and if we want to improve those, we have to break the locum cap, campaign for visa restrictions to be removed, win better policies for cover and training, fight for better pay, and ensure better workforce planning. Those are all things your union does with and for you, and we are stronger if we have more members. On Chris Day specifically, hopefully there will be a frank conversation when his personal Employment Tribunal case is concluded about what happened and the role of the BMA.

Medical Student Rep Training

This year, the BMA Medical Students’ Committee got a new style of training for the first time. Replacing the long lectures about the internal organisation of the BMA and the library were two sections devoted to trade union work.

First, we enabled new representatives to plan a little of their year: thinking about working as a team with their rep colleagues nationally and locally; planning events; meeting the staff who support them. Beth McMahon, Keele representative, talked about how to build a community and share information with your members and with the committee. MSC reps are representing and accountable to the members who elected them. Emma Runswick, BMA Council member, gave some training on recruitment, emphasising that high membership and density was the source of our trade union power, and that recruitment is not a one-step process, nor an advertising conversation.

We then ran a session called ‘problem solving’, a member casework task based on the representation experiences of Emma Runswick whilst a BMA activist. We covered exam failure, welfare and professionalism issues, and group campaigning.

Both sessions were well received and mark a significant departure from the service provision model of representation the BMA is committed to elsewhere in the organisation.

The changes were the result of heavy pushing from the student left working with BMA staff, and the contributions of many reps to the training day working group. We hope the changes will continue and spread into other branches of practice.

Pay and BMA Surveys

The BMA does not have the best track record with surveys, or their response to them. We have been accused in the past of subjecting our members to death-by-survey, and of hiding results, or ignoring them where they are not convenient. It is difficult to know what is true without being on the inside.

Now, however, we have great need for a survey. At the Annual Representative Meeting, the BMA was instructed to ‘identify actions to reflect the feeling of the profession’ on pay.

When the government made the pay ‘award’ last week, the need to survey our members and their willingness to take action became even more apparent.

In order to do this well, we need to explain the effects of prolonged pay restraint and the current offer, then suggest actions and ask if members would be willing to take that action.

We also need to show some leadership – by educating our members, who have had a slow-acting pay cut of around 20% over recent years. To add insult to injury, the latest pay cut offer is less than half of its apparent value. All doctors will lose out due to inflation, and the lack of backdating makes us suffer more. This year’s NHS staff survey has laid bare the realities of working life for doctors in the NHS, as detailed in the latest report of the Review Body of Doctors and Dentists Remuneration (DDRB):
• 80% of medical staff report regularly working unpaid extra hours
• 60% of doctors don’t feel they have enough time to do their job properly
• 30% of medics report their work is making them sick

We should say that we were disappointed by the DDRB recommended rises of 2% to doctors’ pay, which was wholly insufficient to address pay erosion across all doctor groups. Our confidence in the DDRB’s continued independence and utility has been shattered. We are further dismayed that the government has – in bad faith – gone further and halved the DDRBs miserable recommendation. The situation is untenable. We need to officially assess what our members are willing to do about it.

The survey sent via email to members this evening to has failed to do that. Only asking questions that are already asked via the NHS Staff Survey and we already know the answers to. It is embarrassing that the BMA feels the need to ask members if they are angry. As this survey was not run past elected Council representatives before it was sent, we have been left out of the strategic planning of the BMA’s response to another real terms pay cut.

 

We are demanding better, perhaps with a further survey, but definitely with a clear call for genuine action in response to the DDRB and Government failings.

Here are the kind of questions we would like to be asking you now:

 Would you:
  • write to your MP asking them to support the DDRB recommendation?

  • want the BMA to disengage from the DDRB and negotiate directly with government?

  • take action short of a strike – working to contract, refusing overtime and refusing to fill rota gaps? For how long?

  • take action short of a strike – refusing to collaborate with coding practices to damage the financial flow of the hospital without affecting patient care? For how long?

  • take half-day or late-start strike action? For how long?

  • take strike action to end elective treatment? For how long?

  • take strike action to bank holiday cover? For how long?

  • take all-out strike action for just your Branch of Practice (allowing other BoPs to cover)? For how long?

  • take ‘rolling’ strike action where your branch of practice takes strike action one day, and another branch of practice does the next day, and another the next day and so on? For how long?

  • take all-out strike action alongside other branches of practice? For how long?

We recommend members fill out the survey and use the free text comment box to tell the BMA what action you would be willing to take. Lobby Council members and branch of practice reps for a determined response to the pay offer.

Email us at broadleft[at]doctorsbroadsheet.org  if you’d like to get more involved in our campaign.

Council Report 18th July

Brief Summary

The first meeting of the newly elected Council took place on the 18th July. It allocated new ARM policy to different parts of the BMA for action and had opportunity to scrutinise the activity of the BMA over the past 2 months. We did so, and Emma has a further meeting scheduled with the Chief Executive of the BMA to discuss the activity report further, and to deal with unanswered questions.

We also discussed the Code of Conduct, and highlighted some problems with the current process alongside potential solutions.

We asked how the review of Member Support services would capture those turned away by First Point of Contact and those who are represented by local representatives.

We discussed Council roles, elected positions, and the way we work together as an executive. Few decisions were made, work on improving the involvement of Council is ongoing, and leaves a lot to be desired.

We voted to continue the regionalisation and localisation programme to increase financial and staff resources and activity closer to where members live and work.

Read a fuller update below, and feel free to email us using the format first initial, surname, @mybma.org.uk. For example: erunswick[at]mybma.org.uk

 

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