2021 was a tricky time for recruiting and many branches across the union struggled to maintain the growth of the last few years.
But our East of England Ambulance Service branch managed a bumper year, with a net gain of more than 150 members over 2021.
Branch chair Glenn Carrington (pictured) explained how the groundwork was laid when new officers were elected in 2020 and realised “no-one had heard of us.”
He said: “It was enlightening. People had heard of UNISON but weren’t engaged. We realised we needed to do something.”
The senior branch officers met and branch secretary Jess Micallef suggested a tour of the major trust sites to reach out to members.
“We visited all the major stations, hospitals and control centres, speaking to staff and engaging with them. We handed out the usual freebies, especially pens and lanyards.”
More popular still was the free lunch. “We’d spend two or three days at the big sites, using them as a base to go to drop in on smaller stations. The first day we’d get a bit of engagement but on the second day when word got around we were there with food it went down a storm.”
It worked well: “We signed up a lot of people, If it was under five it was a bad day.”
While the pandemic was a problem, it didn’t stop the branch recruiting.
“We were hit hard by the pandemic,” says Glenn, “And then by long Covid and more. It’s given us more to talk about and engage with members about.”
The chance to tour so widely also gave a fresh insight into the state of the NHS after a decade of the Tories.
Glenn said: “The real question is this how do you eat an elephant? When we were doing our rounds I was struck by the loss of infrastructure and resources.
“This pandemic really exposed the results of 11 years of Tory austerity and privatisation which in my view is a deliberate political choice.
“As a trade union we need to continue to fight the slow privatisation of our beloved NHS. How do you eat an elephant? A little at a time.”