Telecoms Best Practice

Striving for 'best practice' 
Telecoms and financial services branches held a two day forum at the TUC's Congress House in October to discuss how they could work more effectively and to share 'best practice' ideas.

It was the latest stage of a process that began in April when branches and the Executive undertook a self-assessment, and branches were surveyed to identify areas of strength and potential improvement. Since then an action plan has been drawn up for the Executive and a draft action plan for branches, setting out ways of improving effectiveness.

A total of 82 Branch representatives from 60 branches travelled to the Forum from as far a field as Penzance, Glasgow and even Belfast. They were joined by 16 T&FS Executive members and 10 CWU officers and staff.

Opening the 'Branches Operating Best Practice Forum', deputy General Secretary Jeannie Drake Jeannie highlighted the reason for the event: "The decision to address our effectiveness came out of a growing awareness that the CWU operates in an ever more challenging environment as we recruit in new, sometimes hostile, areas and seek new recognition agreements. If we are to ensure the union's ongoing success in this climate, it is important that we operate to best practice at every level."

The two-day event covered a range of key areas including recruitment and organising, education and training and equality and diversity. Break out sessions gave more opportunity for people to participate and to generate ideas, which were then reported back to the full group. Each session was opened by a branch representative who gave a short overview of their experiences in the area of discussion, and suggested ideas for other branches to take on board.

On branch structure and organisation, Matt Gillett, from South West Thames branch, talked about the need to 'Spread branch officers across the branch's geographical area to make them accessible, and hold AGMs in various locations to encourage attendance.' It was generally agreed that the membership should be the first consideration when determining branch structure, and that the effectiveness of branch structure should be the subject of ongoing review to maintain quality of representation.

On recruitment and organising, Steve Browett from Croydon and South London Branch talked about the need to 'Find out what the hot issues are to inform your recruitment literature, and use promotional goods to capture the attention of potential members'. There was a general view that recruitment is best done by face to face contact, and that the engagement should be made relevant to the people being addressed. There was also a consensus that good quality recruitment training is essential.

On education and training, Andy Field from South East Anglia branch talked about the importance of more localised training to encourage participation, and the value of inviting official speakers to meetings to give formal updates on specific areas of activity. 

On two way communications between branches and the Executive, Chair of the T&FSE Andy Kerr opened the debate and spoke of the importance of branches and the Executive being able to exchange information effectively. One of the ideas raised by delegates was the possibility of collating queries and issues from branches, with head office providing answers on a wider basis. There was also a view that we need to make greater use of the internet, and better use of conference calling rather travelling long distance to meetings at CWU HQ.

Other topics addressed included maintaining membership records, managing finances, communication between branches and members, and effective representation of members.

The final session looked at how to take the best practice initiative forward. It was agreed that a web-based best practice database should be established which would include useful information and suggestions, and links to other sites. There was also the suggestion of further possible forums being held in future to share best practice ideas.

Jeannie Drake closed the conference by summing up some of the key areas of debate and thanking everyone for attending what had proved to be a very productive two days. The T&FS Executive will now use the ideas captured from the discussions to finalise the branch draft action plan for improving effectiveness.

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