Behind the scenes: Sharing the union love

As union members, we know the advantages of standing together alongside our colleagues.

vectorstock 3310682We understand that our shared membership gives us the strength to create a better working life for all.

New union members don’t just appear from thin air. Each person who joins needs to be recruited. In a large union like the PSA, we recruit a lot.

On average, the PSA loses 100 to 300 of our members each and every week of the year, mostly when people leave their jobs. That’s over 10,000 members a year we need to recruit just to stay even.

Thanks to the efforts of many wonderful PSA delegates, however, the PSA is growing – at the time of writing, we’ve increased our numbers by 3500 in the past year.

Pollyanna Alo is one of those wonderful delegates. A community support worker for Emerge Aotearoa, Pollyanna regularly deals with new staff who don’t know about unions. “You’ve got people who are clinicians, who have degrees, but they still ask ‘What’s a union about?’”

Pollyanna says her workmates are often too busy to find out for themselves, so delegates try to make it easy. “Having all the information around the office is good. The pamphlets and Working Life, I leave in the lunch room and people pick them up and read them over lunch.”

Each workplace has specific conditions that can impact on recruitment. In prisons, there are two unions staff can join, and Brian Hudson, a delegate at Spring Hill Corrections Facility in the Waikato, has had to find ways around this challenge.

Brian uses the unique points of PSA membership as compared to the other union, saying “I always push the benefits of the holiday homes. Interest is definitely shown on those, as well as the other benefits like Kiwibank.”

Those not yet in the workforce also stand to gain from strong union membership, points out Tracey Glennie, whose day job is as an administration coordinator at Capital & Coast District Health Board.

She uses the example of the current industrial action by Allied, Technical and Scientific staff at the Auckland DHBs. “Auckland is fighting for those that are coming after us,” she says, with their stance on keeping current conditions for new workers, as well as those already in their roles.

Tracey works hard to recruit, but knows it isn’t a solo job. At CCDHB, she’s “created a little network where older members let me know about new staff, and they do initial talks before I arrive”.

Not doing it alone is a lesson Brian and Pollyanna know well. Brian works with the staff member in charge of inductions for new staff, who is also a PSA member: “He lets me know when the inductions are, and slots in a union section during that induction week, so we can talk to everyone there.” Pollyanna, meanwhile, works alongside her fellow delegate Alex Loloa to visit worksites. “He’ll talk about the things he’s knowledgeable about, and I’ll do the rest,” she says.

Transparency and personal relationships are the key to connecting with new staff, and Tracey says “having someone who people are confident they can talk to, even if they aren’t delegates, is important”.

Pollyanna is upfront with new staff about how the union can support them. “I’m not a miracle worker, but I have access to resources through the PSA, and if I can’t help you, I can direct you to someone who can.”

Recruitment isn’t only for delegates – anyone can do it, as long as you’re willing to have a chat with new staff. Once they’re convinced, they can join online at, by calling 0508 367 772 or by filling out and posting in a paper membership form.

Share the union love – recruit a colleague today!