The purpose of this paper is to give NTEU branches a model on which to base their branch delegates network. It sets out the ideal characteristics of a delegates network, the main roles of a delegate, and an organising framework for delegates.
Delegates are essential to the effective work of a union. The early development of a powerful delegates network is work intensive, but the rewards can be considerable. However, even a well-developed delegates network requires constant support and resourcing by organisers.
It should also be noted that delegates are distinct from branch committees. While delegates can be committee members, the role of a delegate and the role of a committee member are different. The role of a delegate is to be a strong union presence in the workplace, not to be on the branch committee.
Characteristics of a powerful delegates network
Research by David Peetz and Barbara Pocock has identified five characteristics of a powerful delegates network. The research included surveying of NTEU delegates, as well as other unions. Many of the characteristics are interrelated.
Successful delegates have:
Influence over union decisions: union power comes from delegates who have a say over the decisions of their union, whether in determining content of claims for collective bargaining, or over their local union branch. The more power the delegate has over their union, the more powerful they are in their workplace.
Confidence: The more confidence that a delegate feels about his or her role, the more powerful they are in their workplace. Confidence comes from workplace and organiser support, as well as their regular activism.
A high level if activism: The more active a delegate is, the more powerful they are. Activism includes answering queries from members, participating in meetings with the employer, and being involved in workplace campaigns.
A clear role and clear expectations: Delegates are more confident, active and powerful when they have a clear understanding of their role, expectations of their duties and responsibilities, and the level of support they can reasonably expect from their organiser and union office. The less clear a delegate is about his or her role and expectations, the lower their workplace power.
A network of support from workplace: Delegates who are acknowledged as workplace leaders by their peers (through a vote or election) and who are assisted by workers in their workplace are more powerful.
Support from the union: The more support delegates receive from the union office, the more powerful the delegate. Support from the union includes support during industrial action, providing news and information, providing expertise on a range of industrial and campaign matters, directly dealing with individual grievances and speedily responding to an issue raised by the delegate.
An organiser who teaches them how to be delegate: Delegates who are taught valuable organising skills by their organiser are...