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New Union Project - What's In A Name?

By Seán Carabini, Assistant General Secretary, Friday, 21st April 2017 | 0 comments

During the autumn, the PSEU, Impact and the CPSU will ballot on a proposal that all three organisations should form a new, single, bigger union. Seán Carabini from the PSEU sat down with Niall Shanahan, Impact, to discuss a committee that has been formed to consider a name for the new union.



 

“The whole process of forming a new union - or just discussing the idea of forming a new

 

union - is obviously something that’s preoccupied the senior activist members in the last

 

couple of years. You have three executives talking to each other about the formation of a

 

new organisation, how that would work how it would be structured, and there’s a huge

 

amount of technical information that has to be dealt with in order to give shape and vision to

 

a potential new union. But, ultimately, all of that rests on a decision by the members of all

 

three unions. So all of that work - all of that deep foundation work - has been going on over

 

the last 2 years. We’re now at a stage where the ultimate decision made by the members -

 

the ballot - is only months away. So there’s another piece of the puzzle that we need to slot

 

in - and that is to think about that organisation - if it was formed - what would it be called?

 

“If it’s the name for a new organisation, there is a process that needs to be undertaken to find

 

the right name, first of all. That name has a huge job of work to do by itself. It has to tell the

 

story of what this organisation is, who it represents and what they’re about. It identifies them

 

as a collective. It’s a departure from three organisations that each had separate identities -

 

coalescing under one identity. It has to make an impression both on people within the

 

organisation but also on people outside the organisation. That includes Government and the

 

political class, it includes the media, the commentariat and the people who pay close

 

attention to what our organisations do and they have to have an immediate understanding of

 

what this organisation is, what it does and how its identity was formed. And the name has to

 

do all of that. So the name has a huge job of work to do which means that you have to spend

 

some considerable time and do quite a bit of work in order to ensure that you find a name

 

that works - that does all the jobs it’s supposed to do - but that reflects the identities of the

 

three separate organisations coming together. In order to do that, you have to look at the

 

legacy of the three unions because each of the unions has a proud legacy of the work that

 

they’ve done over decades on behalf of members. So there’s an awful lot of history there as

 

well as legacy that people reflect on and value in the context of their own organisation.

 

“Naturally there’s huge concerns when organisations come together that some of that history

 

or legacy would be lost and certainly when we look back at the impact archive at when

 

Impact was formed in 1991 it was through the amalgamation of the LGPSU, UPTCS and the

 

Municipal Workers’ Union - and there you had 3 very particular identities of organisations

 

whose histories went back to before the foundation of the state. In coming together, they had

 

to find a name that reflected the shared values, the history, the legacy, without losing any of

 

that - and that’s how we arrived at calling that organisation Impact - and the acronym

 

IMPACT reflects the three organisations that came together. But it meant that there was a

 

connection to the past as well as a shared vision of the future. So the name IMPACT over

 

the past 26 years has worked very hard for the organisation - so, equally, we have to find a

 

name for a potential new union that works as hard as that name did for those three

 

organisations coming together.

 

“And that means you have to have a conversation with members - with member activists - for

 

whom that identity is important to get a sense of what the union means to them and through

 

an informed process, then, begin to develop ideas and suggestions around an identity and a

 

name. And like everything else, that process takes time. It makes sense now that we’ve

 

begun those preparations.

 

“If, ultimately, the members decide against amalgamation, then obviously we would park that

 

piece of work. But if we found ourselves in a situation where a new union was formed and it

 

didn’t have a name, the chances are we’d be rushing to create a new identity, and in rushing

 

to do it, we could get it wrong and we could end up with a name that doesn’t work as hard for

 

us and that doesn’t reflect the shared identities of those organisations that are coming

 

together to form a new body. I suppose I think of it as a parallel process - something that’s

 

parallel to the very technical piece of work that’s involved in looking at the legalities and

 

rulebooks and all of that - all the work that’s been ongoing. Finding an identity - a name for a

 

new union - is parallel to that and it’s a very different type of process. But it’s one that’s

 

equally focussed on making sure that the three separate identities are respected in the

 

formation of the new organisation and that the new name does that very particular, very hard

 

piece of work that we need it to do.”

 



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