An online-only branch of Equity that will be open to all members and will have the same democratic rights as the union’s other branches is to be launched this year.
The union has revealed that the internet-based branch will operate via its website, allowing members to log on, discuss proposals and make decisions through meetings held at specified times.
Martin Brown, assistant general secretary at Equity, said the idea of an online branch had been discussed for about three years.
He said the branch would be “an online democratic entity” and was aimed at enfranchising members, specifically those who were unable to attend existing groups because of their location.
Brown described the branch as “an enormously exciting prospect” and added: “I’ve not heard of any other democratic organisation that is trying this. There are online procedures like polling and forums, but an actual online branch, with the same democratic rights as a real branch? We may be pioneers here.”
He said that the union had worked on how to create an online structure where its members could “engage and have discussions”. This would enable them to make “proper and respectable decisions that will have exactly the same weight as people actually sat in meetings, talking to each other”.
However, he said the length of meetings online was likely to be longer than those at physical branches and that there would be procedures to “ensure anyone who votes on a motion has engaged in the whole debate around that motion”.
He also said that only one online branch was planned, adding that more could follow if the union “has an unmanageably large number of members” for the first.