This week's UNITE Executive Council discussed arrangements for members who are not in paid employment, which includes students, people out of work, people unfit to work, carers and pensioners.
This post deals specifically with "community" members. I've posted already about retired members - who should read both posts.
To push through its austerity measures, the government is seeking to divide those in work from the rest of the population. UNITE's new community membership initiative is intended to build unity, give a voice to those not working, strengthen community support for members in work and strengthen the union's campaigning role in our communities. At the same time, the union's primary focus remains the workplace, so the structures have been set up so that community members can be properly represented within the union's structures, but not dominate them.
Anyone over 16 years of age, not in paid employment and not already in a union should join UNITE as a community member and get involved. This includes students, the unemployed, full-time parents and carers, people too ill to work and pensioners.
Community membership costs 50p a week, preferably paid by quarterly direct debit (£6.50 every 3 months).
New Community Branches are being set up, initially based on the same areas as UNITE's existing "Area Activist Committees" within each region and serviced by the same officers. So for example in the north-west, my region, the areas are Manchester, Cheshire, Merseyside, Lancashire, Cumbria and the Isle of Man. The first branch meetings will normally be called to elect officers once 50 members have signed up in a particular area. They will also elect two members onto each Area Activist Committee.
Community branches are funded on the same basis as all other UNITE branches, though Regional Committees may decide to financially support particular campaigns or initiatives.
A "Community Support Unit" is being set up at UNITE head office for an initial six month-period, after which it will be reviewed.
While I would hope most people would take up UNITE community membership to get involved and active, the initial publicity for Community membership focuses heavily on the "benefits" package, which includes:
- Legal services (legal helpline, personal injury support)
- Welfare benefits, tax and financial mis-selling advice
- Gas & electricity comparison service
- Debt counselling
- Unite pre-paid debit card
- Employment assistance service (CV writing, job applications, interview tips)
- Access to hardship grants
- Accident cover
- Discounted insurance