I have recently been elected to lead my workplace union and would love to find others who are more experienced than me in union organisation. Could we could share tips on recruitment, and without revealing any personal information of course, talk about dealing with grievances and disciplinaries etc?
Actually, Talkinpeace, UCU does work for post-docs and PhD students. In my university they represented PhD Students in talks with uni management, improving their teaching contracts to include things like sick pay and holiday pay for the first time. And one of the issues for the strike next week is the insidious creep of zero hours contracts, and the casualisation of labour in higher ed - which disproportionately affects post-docs.
I am not attempting to derail the thread. I did not realise it was on rails.
OP has taken on a role that many will chicken away from. If she does it well with her eyes open she will be a force for good. If she falls into mindsets like "scum management" she might as well pack her bags now.
Unions have done great things that people now take for granted, but being reminded of the past cuts little ice with the young so, as I said earlier, OP needs to clarify what she and her cohort offer today and forwards rather than to dwell on the past.
I strongly suspect that by posting the thread she has already taken the first step
BProud I was a union organiser in my last workplace for four (long) years. It was tough at times but I learned loads about negotiation and management as well as employment law. You also get to understand the guts of your organisation in a whole different way. I don't do it any more but would echo a lot of the points above. One thing I and my fellow rep found useful was to have 'office hours' for TU stuff- or you are constantly being interrupted in the middle of other work. We also found it useful not to rep processes that were with people in our immediate teams, so picked our casework accordingly.
Our area rep was pretty useless to be honest, but we were not a high profile industry so I suspect we did not get Unite's finest...
One of the most difficult things to communicate to people is that 'unfair' (as in not very nice for the individual) is not necessarily illegal- yes, it's horrible when you're made redundant, but if the process has been carried out correctly, there's not much we can do about it. Make sure you don't over-promise to people on those grounds- a lot of what you do will be about process rather than principle.
Also agree with TheFarSide on people hiding behind you- the amount of times we had members say they would be prepared to take industrial action on something at the outset, then lose all appetite for it as we went through the process was infuriating, because you'll put a lot of time and effort into negotiating with management with that as your final position. You then look a bit daft if that is not supported.
Another piece of advice would be to make sure boundaries are clear- you are not someone's counsellor or even their friend, and remain at a professional distance (personal fave was when someone's Dad emailed me about their grievance process). When people are upset about something at work they can't really talk about, they will stick to you like glue. You'll also have to deal with people who you think- 'yes absolutely- you should be on capability' which can be a bit tricky- again, that comes back to the process and keeping focus on that.
I am very glad I will never have to run a salary negotiation again, too...