PIcket Guide – informal workshop

Template for an informal Workshop for UNISON members and active members

Title and Description:Picketing Guide 
Learning Outcomes:An Understanding of the purpose of Picketing


Awareness of legal backdrop

Practice picket line conversations

Identify Organising lead


Timing Suggestions: Circle the most appropriate from the list below


  •  3 hours
  • 1 hour
  • 3 x 20 min sessions√
  • 4 x 15 min sessions
  • Other, please specify


Suggested event at which to run the workshop: Circle the most appropriate from the list below branch development day,√


  • branch committee meeting,
  • branch AGM,
  • Stewards Meeting,√
  • Staff side meeting,
  • Other, please specify


Activities and Facilitator Notes:


  •  Introduction
  • Activity – why do we picket
  • Activity – hats the law got to do with it – discovery exercise
  • Activity – Typical conversations
  • Activity – recording organising leads and following them up


Resources Required:Checklist and handout







Standing on a picket line alongside colleagues can be really uplifting and builds a sense of camaraderie. However, it can be daunting trying to engage with people who want to cross the picket line. 


We need to have strong support to make the employers change their minds.  So it is vital that you try to discuss the issues with those who want to cross the line, or who are required to work on the day of the strike and to build support for our campaign. The following list provides some ideas of how to have these conversations on the day.


It is vital to be courteous and calm at all times.  Peacefully ask the worker to stop and talk to you. Do not assume that they are a member or that they are covered by the pay dispute.  Explain to them why you are going on strike. Provide information about the dispute and have handouts and campaign materials to hand. Remember the employer may have issued misinformation about the strike – you have an opportunity to correct this.


Common responses:


Members seeking to cross the picket line


Explain that going into work means supporting the employer. Ask them whether they feel that they are worth more. Point out that by breaking the strike they are undermine their colleagues and won’t improve their pay.  Explain that the union can support strikers using its Industrial Action fund, and have details of when deductions from salary will be made. Have details of “There for You” available: email address[email protected] phone number 020 7121 5620.


“But I Voted No”


As member of a democratic union, we are pleased that you took part in the vote, but collective responsibility means sticking by majority decisions even ones you didn’t agree with.  Taking strike action is a last resort, and the decision to take strike action has not been taken lightly.  If we don’t stick together the employers will think us weak – and we will never win a decent pay rise. The employers and government will continue to cut your pay and conditions and we may never be in a position to recover the ground we have lost.  Falling pay also means loss of pension, which could affect you for the rest of your life. 


“But I Didn’t Vote”


The union spent a lot of time and effort on reaching members and urging them to vote. Choosing not to vote doesn’t change the fact that the vote was for strike action. We work as a collective.


“I’m Not a Member”


Explain the pay dispute and highlight other issues of concern at the workplace. Some staff will be eligible to take part in the strike if they sign up before or during any action, including on the day of the strike. Have application available and get them to fill in a form on the picket line or to join online at https://join.unison.org.uk/joinus.php



“I’m a Member of UNISON But Was Not Balloted”


Are they in areas not covered by the ballot? UNISON members not covered by the current dispute could still show their support by contributing to Industrial Action Funds, signing the online petition, attending rallies organised in non work time.


“I’m in a Union that isn’t Striking”


We cannot ask these trade unionists to come out on strike, but you can seek their support in other ways. Ask them to donate to the hardship fund, attend a rally etc.


“What is the strike about?” “Why should staff be paid more?”


Use the campaign leaflet for the public or worth it materials. Show them the messages of support from UK and International unions. Check social media #njcpay14 for updates and photos of action across the UK.


Council and school staff have asked for a modest pay rise that begins to tackle the problems of falling pay and offers a living wage for the lowest paid. The employers have offered a below inflation deal which means another pay cut. Note that you and colleagues have already lost over 18% in real terms. Point out the salary of senior managers.


But why do you need to strike?


We have been left with no option. The employers won’t dig into their cash surpluses to pay staff what they are worth. We have been talking, negotiating and campaigning with the local government employers since we put our claim in last October. But they say their pay offer is ‘non negotiable.’  They have also refused to take part in any arbitration talks through ACAS as provided for in the NJC collective agreement.


UNISON stands ready to enter further negotiations at any point, as do the other unions. However, the employers are in a very entrenched position and only strike action is likely to move them to make an improved offer.


We are not a posturing or strike happy union —far from it.  Strike action has always been a last resort in trying to force employers to negotiate more seriously.  On the rare occasions that we have gone on strike across the local government sector we have made gains on previous proposals.


We apologise for any disruption but we ask for understanding and support, because if we can’t get a fair deal from councils and schools, everyone will suffer.


And finally…..


By standing with your colleagues on the picket line on 10 July, you will be supporting a historic day of action. If you have any problems or difficulties on the picket lines have contact details for your UNISON Regional Organiser or UNISON centre to hand

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