How to get the vote out

What can activists do to encourage members to engage with their pay ballot? UNISON’s campaigns team offers some top tips and encouragement

There are just a few weeks left of UNISON’s consultation on the government’s 3% pay decision for NHS staff in England and Wales.

The health service group executive clearly calls 3% ‘unacceptable’, but in order to have confidence in our union’s next move we need to know what members in every workplace, every role, and every pay band are willing to do next.

Though the consultation process couldn’t be simpler (it takes just one minute to vote online) we now need to be encouraging members to vote – in droves.

So, armed with all the materials you might need, and with your fully-charged phone or tablet open at (or, here are six ways to make sure you’ve got it covered in your workplace.

One-to-one wins out

After a strange 18 months, many of us are getting used to having those face-to-face conversations again, that seemed to come so naturally in the ‘before times’. So to help kickstart confident and meaningful chats with members about pay, we’ve pulled together some top tips.

The old adage that we have ‘two ears and one mouth’ is always a great start, but what comes next? Here’s how to follow up active listening with thoughtful exploratory questions, positive responses and practical next steps.

Role with it

We’ll tell anyone who’ll listen that the NHS is One Team – yes, one hardworking and professional, 1.3 million-strong team, comprised of literally hundreds of different roles. And every single occupational group needs to be heard in this consultation, so we’ve got to cover a lot of ground during the next few weeks!

Take the time to come up with a plan of action for who will meet each group of staff on their turf, so everyone has the chance to hear more about the pay decision, to vote and to join UNISON. Let’s give the kitchen staff some food for thought. Take porters on a journey. Get medical secretaries to take note. Tell ambulance staff that voting is a priority. Show healthcare assistants and operating department practitioners how much we care about their views… You get the picture! Gather your ‘get out the vote’ team, split the responsibilities and have fun as you race to reach every role.

Put in a shift – and ask!

As we already know, one of the biggest reasons people give for not joining the union is ‘nobody asked me’. The same applies to people not voting, even when it will really benefit them to have their say.

So let’s make sure everybody has, at least, been asked to vote. Get together within your branch and come up with a plan to make sure every single shift pattern is covered at some point over the next couple of weeks – from the early birds to the night owls, from the weekdays to the weekends.

Willing volunteers asking the question of everyone who’s clocked in will make a huge difference to turnout. And it’s a great opportunity to hear a fresh perspective on the issues staff face on different shifts.

Get on the airwaves

Some branches and regions use hospital radio to fantastic effect to advertise staff events throughout the year. While the main aim of the broadcasters (usually volunteers) is to raise the spirits of patients, many are more than happy to include short ads or segments aimed at the staff team too. So if you’re holding a stall or meeting, see if you can get a shout-out on the radio to get members and potential members along.

Famous faces

It’s time to seek out your superstars! We don’t mean celebs (though there’s been plenty of support from them for a decent pay rise), we mean the biggest personalities in your workplace ­– the friendly faces that everybody knows.

Whether it’s the receptionist who greets everyone by name, or the cleaner who seems to cover acres in one shift, check whether they’re UNISON members, ask whether they’ve voted and urge them to use their charm to help create a buzz on-site. You could even record a quick video of them encouraging their colleagues to vote and share it on your social media. Talking of which…

Storm it on social

Social media alone won’t do the job, but it’s a fantastic way to amplify all the important conversations you’re having on the ground. Brand up your branch’s accounts with the consultation graphics and post regularly about voting, so there’s no mistaking that our aim is to hear from every member who’s affected.

Advertise your next branch meeting or drop-in session. Where people are happy to be snapped, share photos from your workplace stalls. Encourage members to post selfies and add the Facebook frame to their profile picture. Use the hashtag #OneTeamYourSay to join our union’s conversation about NHS pay and share ideas with branches up and down the country.


If your branch has found some unique or successful ways of bringing people to the ballot, please tell us by emailing – this consultation is a mighty team effort and we have a better chance of achieving a great turnout if we all share what’s working best.

UNISON’s next move on NHS pay is in members’ hands. Getting out the vote is in ours.

Tips for one-to-one conversations

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