This much we know – the union thirst for data

What we know, how we know it and what we do with what we know – these are the key questions as the latest UnionDues podcast dives into the distinctly unsexy world of data.

But, as our guests on this week’s episode show us, place good data in the capable hands of a union negotiator, and you will see the impact of increased membership and better deals.

Data and Union successes

The link between data and union successes is not automatic but the importance of understanding and efficient use of data cannot be under-estimated.  Accurate membership records, for example, is hardly at the “rocket science” end of the data spectrum (unless the members actually are rocket scientists, of course).

However, knowing what members and potential members value most about the union offer,  what informs their thinking,  and what would encourage them to join and /or become active are crucial parts of the organising jig-saw.

From Why Not Lab to Physiotherapists’ union

The importance of data to unions has long had its champions – particularly  but not only Christina Colclough and her Why Not Lab.  But organisationally,  the physiotherapists union, CSP has stolen a march on the rest of us by appointing a Head of Data.  As far as we know, Jenny Andrew is the only union official with that title. 

So what is ahead of data?  What do they do?  What does success look like?  And why have one to start with?  Jenny and CSP Director of CSI Jon Mawby, share their insights. (And the job title is nothing to do with policing, but you’ll have to listen to discover what it really stands for).

As Jenny says, “Data is an asset but we’re not all using it in that way” and for those that do,  “the choke point is the data itself….data use isn’t the missing piece, but data management is.”  She uses the analogy of a lightswitch versus dimmer switch comparison to make the point about effective data management.

And as for her own position, Jenny says “if you had cash flow problems, you’d hire a financial adviser not a personal shopper…my role is akin to a head of finance or hr.”

Jon is clear that systematic use of data is a natural part of the CSP’s long tradition of evidence-based decision-making.  “The art of what is possible with data can excite even people without technical expertise, but you need that expertise to avoid falling down rabbit holes.

Sustainable Development Goals are a union issue

Also in the show, Glasgow University Professor of Work and Employment Melanie Simms takes timely look at  Sustainable Development Goals in her #thought4theweek and explores the links between the climate change agenda, and everyday working conditions – it’s not a spoiler to say the two are closer than you might think.

Legacy of the 1888 Matchgirls’ strike

And we chat to Sam Johnson, chair of the charity campaigning for proper recognition for the matchgirls who took strike action in 1888 – still a touchstone in the history of our labour movement.  This is a personal as well as political issue  for Sam as her great grandmother was Sarah Chapman, a leading figure in the dispute whose burial site is now threatened by redevelopment. You can sign the petition to save Sarah Chapman’s grave here.

The technical gremlins have tried – but failed – to derail Josiah Mortimer’s regular #RadicalRoundUp.  All the union stories you might not find in the mainstream media but voiced just this week by actor David Kerr.

Listen to this and all episodes at https://uniondues.podbean.com/

An edited version of this post appears on Left Foot Forward

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