Building people power in the workplace

A61R6383A61R6372Association delegates are learning new ways of organising campaigns and spreading their message. It’s a simple way to spread the message.

Workplace branch officials are the vital link between the NSWNMA’s head office and nurses on the wards. Major campaigns, such as our current push to extend ratios, can place a heavy burden on the handful of active members who run most branches.

During last month’s Annual Conference branch officials looked at new ways of getting more members involved with the Association and the ratios campaign in particular.

Their immediate focus was on generating support for the signatures drive as it develops toward regional activities in the week starting September 9 and building to a day of action in Sydney on September 17.

The union called in ACTU campaign educator Kristyn Crossfield to run an education session on the theme “Building People Power to Win Campaigns.”

Kristyn said the session was based on two main ideas: learning more effective ways of asking members for commitment; and getting more people to do the asking.

“The more people you can get to ask others to make a commitment – to come to a meeting, get signatures on a petition, wear red for the day – the more likely you are to be able to build people power in your workplace to win your campaign,” Kristyn said.

“Instead of one delegate trying to speak to dozens of nurses about an issue, have five conversations with individuals who then commit to having five conversations, and so on.

“It’s the simple but powerful multiplier effect.”

She said branch officials should choose well-known and respected members as the first group to be asked to commit.

“It’s also important that once someone has made a commitment, the person doing the asking should go back and check they have done what they said they would do.

“By following them up you are letting them know you haven’t forgotten their commitment and that you are counting on them.

“We find that members who take the trouble to do that follow up get a really high percentage of people who carry out their commitments.”

What if you get a knock-back from someone who says they are too busy or too tired, thinks it’s a hopeless cause or is just anti-union?

Kristyn said the “LEAP” technique – Listen, Explore, Acknowledge, Propose – has a high rate of success.

“LEAP starts with asking questions to find out why someone is saying no, and listening to the answers to get an insight into where they are at on an issue.

“We often know a lot about an issue and want to tell people what’s good for them. However it is more effective to build your argument from where the other person is at, rather than where you’re at.

“The next steps are to acknowledge that their feelings are legitimate, and suggest that if we really want to get a result and fix a problem we all need to get involved.

“You shouldn’t browbeat people and nor should you take no for an answer straight away, because the issue – ratios in this case – is so important and we need everyone on board.”

Delegates at the conference formed pairs to practice the LEAP approach.

“It was a very powerful session and it’s put me in a more positive frame of mind,“ said delegate Amelia Scott, a child and family health nurse at Fairfield community health centre.

“Union work tends to fall back on a small group of people and techniques like this should be very useful in broadening the circle.”

Dianne Lohman, delegate and branch secretary from Kempsey District Hospital, said it was valuable to learn a new organising approach that would give added impetus to the ratios campaign.

“The idea of each activist committing to talk to five people and asking each of them to commit to talk to another five, is a simple way to spread the message and gives everyone a clear task to do” Dianne said. “It puts less of a burden on individuals, which is important when people are so busy and shift work and travel distances make it difficult to coordinate our actions.”

Day of Action: September 17
The Association’s drive to collect signatures on a petition calling for nurse-to patient ratios in all hospitals will come to a head at a Day of Action in Sydney on September 17.

Global Nurses United, a new body of nurse unions from 14 countries including Australia, has made September 17 a day of international action. In NSW the focus will be on ratios.

The Sydney Day of Action is being held in co-ordination with activities by other member unions of Global Nurses United.
NSWNMA branches from outside Sydney will hold regional activities in the lead-up to the Day of Action, during the week beginning September 9.

Get members on board
Hold a meeting of activists to set targets for petition signing and numbers attending your regional day of action.

Each activist asks 5 members to commit to gathering signatures and attending the action. Each of these 5 members then gets commitments from another 5.

Every person follows up on the commitments they received and feeds the information back to whoever contacted them.