Using data to build strong unions
PUBLICATION / 28.04.22
Huge opportunities exist for trade unions to use data to help build stronger, more successful unions and win a better deal for workers. Unions 21's new report shows how. It provides practical examples, ideas and questions to help unions enhance how they use data. The report presents findings from research about how data is being used in unions and the barriers preventing its use.
New report is by Tom Hunt, Senior Fellow at Unions 21 and Deputy Director of the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Sheffield. The research comprised a survey, in-depth interviews and roundtable discussions with officials with a wide range of roles, responsibilities and seniority.
The research found there is often a lack of clarity about what data is and what using data means. So the report clearly describes what data is and why it matters. It argues that the conversation about data in unions needs to focus more on purpose and less on technology. Effective use of data is about always putting strategy before tactics. Data provides unions with information about their members, workplace conditions and how work is changing. That information helps unions make decisions and allocate the right resources at the right time for the right purpose.
The report argues that data isn't a new thing. Unions were using data 10 years ago and 100 years ago. But today there are new ways to gather, analyse and use data that unions can do more to exploit to make their work more effective.
Case studies from 10 unions show innovative ways that unions are using data. These include how the Danish finance sector union used data about the growth of fintech to strike a collective agreement covering fintech in Denmark. It looks at how unions are upgrading their data capabilities such as the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists’ investment in a new Head of Data role and how ASLEF used user experience data from members to shape its new investments in tech. Other case studies include Community’s work to establish a working group to help the union make more strategic decisions using data, and the British Medical Association uses patient experience data to shape the union’s policy.
The report sets out the elements of what a data-driven union would look like and steps for all unions to take. This includes developing training to help people gain new knowledge and skills to use and understand data, upgrading IT systems and establishing a culture of research and analysis that values data. The report also provides practical examples to show how data-driven unions would respond to real scenarios and make decisions informed by data.
The report is a guide for senior leaders and elected officials as they make decisions about how to use and invest in data; a resource for officials and activists who want to improve their understanding about data, and a tool for strong data advocates in unions to use as they encourage and make the case for greater data use.