Do your union organisers need tablets?

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Lots of unions in Australia are starting to invest in smart-phones for their organisers, and an increasing number of union officials are sporting ipads.

For unions serious about giving their organisers the best possible tools while they’re out of the office, tablets should be at the top of the list. Lots of organisers regularly work remotely – whether it’s site visits or at Fair Work Australia (the industrial relations commission). Unions have an opportunity to get ahead of the curve and get tablets in the hands of organisers sooner rather than later.

Tablets – iPads and its Android competitors – have changed how we can approach everyday computing tasks, such as reading and responding to email, accessing the web and editing Office documents. Tablets have benefits over phones (even iphones) because their size makes most tasks easier, while still being highly portable.

Ipad and Galaxy Tab
The two most popular tablet models The Apple iPad and the Android Galaxy Tab

Tablets vs Smartphones

I’ll admit that I’m not an Apple fan, but I will readily concede that Apple has revolutionised the smartphone and tablet markets. Ipads and the like have made an old, stale tablet computing useful. What’s more, the new generation of tablets make tasks that are a chore on smartphones – like reading and actually responding in full to emails, documents reading, editing presentations and annotating PDFs – far, far simpler. The only thing smartphones have going for them is their smaller size and, therefore, increased portability. Some tablets (for example, some models of iPad) only use WiFi, so smartphones still have an edge compared to tablets without a mobile data connection.

Tablets, whether Android or Apple (running on iOS), exploded in 2010 and there is no sign of let up in 2011. In addition to the new generation iPad, there will also be the introduction of Android 3 devices – the latest Google-powered tablet operating system. The computing power and out-of-the-box functions of tablets are set to dramatically increase, while costs go down.

Tablets are the “in-between” device

Tablets exist between smartphones and laptops. While laptops mostly remain costly expensive, tablets are now increasingly accessible to unions. Making sure that organisers on the move have access to a powerful device can help them while they’re out of the office. Whether it’s electronic membership forms, accessing member or site records in the car before going to visit workers, or updating their calendar with an appointment, the tablet is a “just right” middle ground solution. It is perfect for tasks that are too demanding for smartphones, but not worth booting up a laptop.

My own experience

I have recently started using a Galaxy Tab – the main competitor to the Apple iPad. The Galaxy Tab runs on Google’s Android operating system. While my smartphone lets me answer the most basic communication while on the move, and update social media, the Galaxy Tab lets me provide more detailed, complete responses. The larger size is more useful for showing off union designs or PDFs. Because it is smaller and less ostentatious than an iPad, I feel I can take it with me to more places.

Showcasing your union

Tablets like the iPad and Galaxy Tab aren’t just “productivity tools”, designed to grind out more work from your already stretched organisers and industrial staff. They lend themselves to helping you put your best face forward to members and potential members at the coal face.

I mentioned earlier that tablets can be useful as electronic membership forms. For US-based unions, apps like Square, let you process credit card transactions using your iPad. New members may also be more willing to use a tablet to fill out an online membership form from your website.

Tablets are also useful for presentations or sharing documents, such as PDFs. Uploaded copies of union policies, collective agreements and fact sheets on your organisers’ tablets are much easier to read and show to others in a meeting or at a caucus before a negotiation with management

Equiping your organisers and industrial officers with tablets shows that your union is at the cutting edge. If your union has its own app, the two compbined helps show to existing and potential members that your union is a modern, cohesive and effective organisation.

[box]What do you think? Does your union use tablets?[/box]

5 responses to “Do your union organisers need tablets?”

  1. stevedore Avatar

    For me the main (only?) benefit of tablets for organisers would be the ability to put well-designed and materials, forms, leaflets presentations, etc in front of members. It would be a great way to share good recruitment videos and membership forms with potential new members for instance.

    1. Alexander White Avatar

      Good point about using tablets to show off videos, I hadn\’t thought of that.

  2. Godfrey Avatar

    Thanks for that – was wondering just the other day what use tablets might be for Organisers.

  3. Craig Avatar

    The article you have linked to on Mashable is somewhat revealing in that it shows how much the reviewer doesn't know or get about how the iPad or iPhone works. They have clearly not worked out that the slogan "there's an App for that" is primary to how the iPad works! Want to transfer files from your iPad to your computer? Use Dropbox or Boxnet or other online storage – all your files will be there regardless of what device/machine you access. USB is a thing of the past.

    As for watching your vids of TV – hire our HD or BluRay or stream from your computer. Isn't the iPad a device one uses when 'on the go'? Not sure about anyone else, but I'm rarely near a TV that I would want to plug in to.

    Most people who have an iPad would probably have a mobile with GPS so I'm not sure what the value of that would be.

    Transfer photos via bluetooth with the photo transfer app. Like most it's either free or a couple of bucks and works perfectly.

    I think criticisms of the iPad come mainly from PC or non-iPhone users who are perhaps not used to the way Apple works. Just a thought.

    1. Alexander White Avatar

      Hi Craig,

      I suspect the Mashable article was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. However, iPads and iPhones are clearly facing growing competition from Android phones that do more "out of the box" and don't need apps. With data costs still relatively high in many countries, options like Dropbox (which I personally use and find fantastic) may not be optimal. I also find expandable memory cards to be more useful than built-in memory.

      I'm not Apple's biggest fan, but I readily admit that they've done some amazing things in the smart-phone and tablet area, and have significantly raised the bar.


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