After two ballots in favour, and under pressure to comply with EU legislation about worker consultation, management at the children's charity ChildLine have agreed to recognise a trade union. With twenty-odd redundancies at ChildLine's Nottingham base last year -- after a Mickey Mouse 'consultation exercise', and no pay-rise for two years, it's time for workers to get organised.
Like many charities, ChildLine relies heavily on volunteers -- especially as counsellors. There are also 'sessional' and 'contracted' workers (casual labour, to you and me), who have their hours changed or cut with little or no warning. At the moment, it looks like ChildLine workers will get Unison or Amicus as their union -- but volunteers and casuals wouldn't have the same rights of union representation. While it's a step forward, a TUC-style trade union would serve to divide rather than unite ChildLine workers – paid and unpaid, permanent and casual.
ChildLine is run like an empire by fading TV personality, Esther Rantzen, backed up by a bunch of unelected, unaccountable trustees. Last year, workers were told in an email that they weren't going to get a pay rise for the second year running. No negotiation, no consultation, no nothing. In the meantime, volunteers and casuals are used to fill the gaps left by a freeze on recruitment. Only a new kind of union, and a new kind of workplace organisation can deliver for ChildLine workers. Union and non-union members are already starting to meet informally to discuss the best way to make that happen.