UNION related chat, reflections and experiences. Reps & members alike!

Discussion in 'education & employment' started by Rutita1, Mar 9, 2016.

  1. Rutita1

    Rutita1 Sassy McFlashy

    I think it would be good to have a general thread for union reps and members to share their experiences, questions, anecdotes etc.

    After many years of wanting too, I have finally become a union rep. :cool: Early days mind. :hmm: The good thing is that it a currently a time of 'peace' and very little on the table between staff and management which gives me an opportunity to settle in to the role.

    Are you a rep? Are you a member? What's it like where you are? Any sticky moments? Bugbears? Tell us more. :)
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2016
  2. krtek a houby

    krtek a houby Share knowledge, don't weaponize it

    Until my redundancy; I was a member for many years. Most of the reps I dealt with were very helpful - apart from one who bullied me whilst in the workplace. I should have done something about it but didn't and it eventually led to a breakdown. After several weeks off; I came back to work & that person started up again & I roared at them. I then was cautioned by one of my superiors & had to attend a mediation thingy with the other person.

    Aside from that; I was proud to be a member (don't normally do "proud") and respected the reps.
    Rutita1 likes this.
  3. Rutita1

    Rutita1 Sassy McFlashy

    How about some helpful dos and don'ts? :hmm:
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2016
  4. Pickman's model

    Pickman's model every man and every woman is a star

    been a union rep for a while now, had my first piece of casework in december & wiped the floor with hr
    space-tout, ddraig, marty21 and 9 others like this.
  5. Lord Camomile

    Lord Camomile Lemonade socialist

    Very much like you, after many years of having a token membership (UNISON) I've finally got more active over the last 6 months and am now a rep, Union Learning Rep and Comms Officer.

    We're not exactly in a time of "peace" (far from it really :() but up until recently the union has been rather weak and invisible, which means those of us who have recently got involved are getting a lot of licence to set our own agenda in terms of our role and what we do. That's also why I've very quickly been enlisted into those different branch roles (all shared with other reps, I should say)!

    Went on a 5-day intro course which I have to say was quite disappointing - not a lot on employment law, what we are allowed to do, what we're not allowed to do, how to prepare, etc. So, lots of learning to do.

    Top idea for a thread :thumbs:
  6. Rutita1

    Rutita1 Sassy McFlashy

    Oh god...I have been putting that off actually... Mostly because it means commuting to Dagenham Dock for 5 days running. :( :D

    There are loads more courses though aren't there? So you can do add-ons after the intro one. I think I am gonna do as many of them as possible over the time I am working in this organisation as they are very encouraging in terms of PD.
  7. Miss-Shelf

    Miss-Shelf I'll meet you further on up the road

    I have been a memeber of a union since 1997, changing unions 6 years ago to UCU in my present workplace

    I have only had to call on a union seriously once and they were ok - found the local rep too overwhelmed by their workload to be very much help and had to go to regional for more support.

    Also, the rep had been called in the year before to support the person who I was needing the help with so that sort of influenced them I think
    must be difficult for them to call it in those circumstances
    this was not a workplace rep but the local contact
    I also find that many active members of unions are fighting the good fight of revolution and so all conflicts or debates are framed within that

    sometimes members want to call on unions for more of a mediation affair

    My current workplace has been in union-management conflict ever since I arrived. Quite a lot of strike days or other action
    I am all for taking strike action to either stick together and protest or for leverage on a situation
    however, action in the last year has felt particularly hopeless
    plus not everyone is in the union and the work does not go away after a strike day as its still on my tariff to do - just without pay!

    Also, the biggest issue for me is workload - it was massive when I arrived and has increased year on year
    we never get to fight this because we're always firefighting redundancies

    plus management have picked off key union members in redundancies
    Sprocket. and Rutita1 like this.
  8. Rutita1

    Rutita1 Sassy McFlashy

    Deliberately getting shot of active/effective ones?
  9. Lord Camomile

    Lord Camomile Lemonade socialist

    Yeah, I've got my eye on "Update on Employment Law" and... sod it, another - I've marked it down in the training schedule :oops:

    My place is encouraging on what they view as useful PD, but they seemed a bit clueless as to the regs for union training (basically they asked me to justify it, which they aren't really supposed to do). Think a lot of this is because of how little the unions are a part of day-to-day worklife here. Hoping to do a bit of (re-)educating all round on that front.
    Rutita1 likes this.
  10. Miss-Shelf

    Miss-Shelf I'll meet you further on up the road

  11. Lord Camomile

    Lord Camomile Lemonade socialist

    One thing that was good about the Intro training course was meeting all the other reps from other workplaces, which really put the grievances of my own colleagues into perspective. We just haven't had to deal with stuff like that, although of course we'll see if that continues to hold true as the union gets more active and vocal. I'd like to hope so.
  12. ViolentPanda

    ViolentPanda Hardly getting over it.

    Only one "don't" worth bothering with, in my experience:

    Don't let yourself be co-opted by the bosses. Even when you might agree with a point the bosses are making, your primary job as a rep is to look after the interests of the workers - even though sometimes those workers may be piss-takers and twats as individuals.
  13. ViolentPanda

    ViolentPanda Hardly getting over it.

    I always found HR depts, regardless of the unions I was in (USDAW, CWU, CPSU, Prospect) to be poorly-informed, and highly-reliant on intimidation.Wasn't unusual for HR to be totally without a comeback when you informed them that their disciplinary procedure was illegal, and that precedent in tribunals was usually for a couple of grand to be awarded to the wronged employee. I'm not sure that any of them had a fucking clue about workplace legislation.
  14. Rutita1

    Rutita1 Sassy McFlashy

    Right....how do people deal with these individuals? :hmm:
    Greebo likes this.
  15. ViolentPanda

    ViolentPanda Hardly getting over it.

    It's a standard tactic across the board - either promote or transfer you out of your current branch, or snow you under with fallacious disciplinary bullshit.
  16. Pickman's model

    Pickman's model every man and every woman is a star

    nor in this case about their own policies.
  17. Rutita1

    Rutita1 Sassy McFlashy

    I am aware of common tactics, I just wanted to be clear about what Shelfy meant in her situation.
  18. ViolentPanda

    ViolentPanda Hardly getting over it.

    Frankly, I just dealt with the arseholes the same as I did with members who weren't arseholes: Swallow your objections and concentrate on the case rather than the individual. I had one case whose victim was an extremely-racist and anti-English Welsh woman, who'd been disciplined for theft. The disciplinary was based on management hearsay - the evidence was only "x saw y steal", a typical "he says, she says" scenario. I couldn't stand the woman or her "politics", but the case was cut and dried - if you bring a disciplinary, it had to be on substantive evidence of wrongdoing, not on the unverifiable claims of a boss who I was able to prove - much to the chagrin of area management - was not honest enough to have his word taken as gospel.
  19. ViolentPanda

    ViolentPanda Hardly getting over it.

    Even less excuse for them making a pig's ear of it, then!
    Still they do make the life of a union rep easier. :)
    Greebo and Pickman's model like this.
  20. Sprocket.

    Sprocket. Jive Miguel, he’s in from Bogotá..

    I started work on 17/6/74 as an apprentice mechanical craftsman, I was a member of AUEW young person section by lunch.
    I can remember Derek Simpson when he was a works convenor. Although our convenor was steadily supplying us with copies of the Morning Star and encouraging us to get involved, the management did not take kindly to what they saw as the politicisation of the apprentices. Strangely enough as soon as I had finished my apprenticeship I was let go!
    I got involved later with the Amicus Gazette and was pleased to see the back of our union leader, Blair's favourite Sir Ken Jackson.
    I have been active and was also a works rep for ten years in my previous job. Mostly dealing with disciplinary issues and redundancies. I can thoroughly agree with Frances O' Grady, there is no better feeling in the world than getting someone their job back.

    The first rule is : Do not let HR and Management intimidate you, they are usually woefully inept and ignorant when they are not dealing with intimidated workers.
    Also if you are in meetings with them never nod your head, even if they are talking sense, rare I know, they take this as a sign of approval.
    Always take notes and always have witnesses, never let them corner you as this is always seen by your members as collusion, however innocent.
    Your members are who you are there for, and as ViolentPanda says above you will have pisstakers, do not let them control the meetings or groups, you will find that other members are as dismayed by them as you will be, always have someone you can rely on.
    Depending on your union you will find a wealth of support and literature from your regional or district office, as well as your local officials. They are there to support you as well as the membership. Use them.

    One of the worst pieces of discrimination came along when companies changed from Personnel Departments to Human Resources, it's a ploy to mask the person and turn them into a resource, your fellow workers are people, not machines and have feelings.
    I hope you have a pleasant experience and have lots of little victories.
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2016
  21. ViolentPanda

    ViolentPanda Hardly getting over it.

    One thing I will say to anyone thinking of becoming a union rep: It's knackering (you'll usually end up using about 20 hours a week minimum keeping on top of your caseload, meetings etc), but worth it because you occasionally achieve something that means a subtle shift of power to the workers in the workplace.
    And, if you're a mean bastard like I was, the sight of scrunched-up, unhappy management faces contrasted with happy worker faces was a sheer delight to me. :)
  22. Lord Camomile

    Lord Camomile Lemonade socialist

    I'll almost certainly mention it again nearer the time, but if you're interested in union stuff and are in London I'm organising a screening of Pride on Wed, 27 April, followed by a discussion about solidarity among unions and activist groups.

    Just had Mike Jackson (who is one of the people Pride is about) confirm, and hoping to get someone from TUC and BMA there too.

    I'm also looking on getting a free monthly union film club set up for my branch, which will be accessible to people outside of our branch too. Educate the masses! :D

    e2a: whoops - should probably mention the Pride screening on 27 Apr will be in New Cross :oops:
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2016
    Greebo, equationgirl and Rutita1 like this.
  23. Lord Camomile

    Lord Camomile Lemonade socialist

    Does anyone have any experience setting up workplace/members' meetings*? I'm hoping to establish something in my dept., one hour every six weeks linked to our branch committee meetings, so in theory we'll have the members' meeting a few days before each committee meeting.

    Although there are three unions here, I have recently discovered there is no official recognition agreement, or it's been lost, or something ( :facepalm: ), so there's nothing we can point to and say "says here we're allowed to meet during paid work hours".

    Are union meetings during paid hours a pipe dream? According to ACAS we're supposed to be granted time off for members' meetings, but there's no statutory requirement for it to be paid time off.

    *I swear the fluctuating terminology feels like it's going to continuously be a barrier to participation
    Greebo likes this.
  24. Rutita1

    Rutita1 Sassy McFlashy

    You don't have a Union agreement then Lord Camomile ?

    We are in the process of looking at ours, my first bit of Union work really... It's been the same way for 15 years and it's shit...overly ambiguous in parts and no clarity at all about how grievances should be approached/reported/addressed/responded to etc..
    Greebo likes this.
  25. Lord Camomile

    Lord Camomile Lemonade socialist

    Not officially, apparently :rolleyes: It's all a bit unclear, I honestly don't know if there was one and everyone's lost it, or it was never officially drafted and everyone just assumed or what... Hang on, I'll see if I can find the wording from my secretary.

    That's some weighty stuff! Part of me would love to get my teeth into something like that, the other part thinks "no fucking thank you!".

    How are you finding it?
  26. Rutita1

    Rutita1 Sassy McFlashy

    Apparently ours was/is just a standard template from a by-gone decade :facepalm:

    We are calling a member meeting to pick the life out of it :mad:

    Then we will address it in the JNC.

    Nothings happened yet! :D
  27. Lord Camomile

    Lord Camomile Lemonade socialist

    Heh, lots of red ink :D

    Yup, just checked and apparently there's been drafts (the last was "a few years back"!) but it was never agreed by the unions, so we all just work on the basis of what is and isn't reasonable, apparently.
  28. Lord Camomile

    Lord Camomile Lemonade socialist

    Facebook event now published. Please think kindly on us and spread the word :D Really excited about this one and would be great to meet some urbanites there if anyone can make it :)
    Greebo likes this.
  29. quimcunx

    quimcunx protestant traybake

    Our shop meetings used to be in work hours but at some point they changed to lunch times. Not sure why.

    I'd be glad of quiet times rutita. Can't say I enjoyed my stints as rep during difficult times. I don't really enjoy the cut and thrust or complex situations when no one is happy and satisfactory resolutions thin on the ground.
    Greebo likes this.
  30. Lord Camomile

    Lord Camomile Lemonade socialist

    I think this is going to be one of the aspects that frustrates/upsets me most - I never like it when there's not a proper solution, which is why I don't like a lot of life :oops:

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