This is clearly an underestimate, as in 2014 the number saying this was 11. (It is possible that some of those completing the audit this time were unaware of audits having been carried out in the past.)
Four of the six large unions included in the audit have carried out their own equality audit (GMB, NASUWT, UNISON and Unite) plus one medium union (CWU) and one small one (Nautilus). These six unions account for 66 per cent of the membership of the unions participating in this audit.
UNISON has an equality scheme and carries out independently commissioned triennial audits, while a review of Unite’s strategy for equality will be finalised following its latest equality and industrial sector conferences and policy conference.
The CWU said some audit work had been carried out, and that a fresh proportionality audit has also been announced. This will focus mostly on encouraging more women to come through in its structures, but it will also look at the other equality strands.
Unions were asked if they had an equality action plan in place. Fifty per cent (19) said they had an action plan, with the proportion doing so diminishing with union size. The unions with action plans include: 100 per cent of the six large unions (UNISON, Unite, GMB, NEU [NUT section], NASUWT, Usdaw); 58 per cent (seven) of the medium unions (Equity, NUJ, PCS, Prospect, RCM, RMT, UCU) and 30 per cent (six) of the small unions (BDA, NARS, Nautilus, NGSU, PFA, TSSA).
Unions provided examples of how action plans are implemented or monitored. UNISON measures its equality action against the union’s strategic objectives published on a yearly basis, which are translated into concrete action plans and outcomes.
The NUJ, a medium-size union, is developing an action plan to promote equality and diversity throughout its functions. This includes better monitoring, considering developing an equality audit and progressing training for staff, representatives and members.
In the TSSA, a smaller union, equality has been established as one of the three priorities in its operational plan, although the union says that translating that into day-to-day practice remains “a challenge”. The union has established a process by which organisers must report on their activities and plans for each year.
Measured are: activities and recruitment linked to equality; visibility for the union; participation and leadership by members; and any recruitment because of the activities. The union is also using the TUC Equality Audit and other standards as benchmarks, and aims to improve its performance in the areas they cover. From this the organising director for equalities, education and projects is establishing an evidence base for how a focus on equality can grow the union and help build its power and influence