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To ask what being a union rep is like?

(8 Posts)
Pumpkinisland89 Sat 17-Feb-18 22:46:33

The union at work is very active and work seem to respect them eg encourage staff to attend site meetings etc. The union have asked for people to stand as reps. I haven't been there long and it's a site of 200+ so doubt I'll get anywhere (I'm not even sure what the process is to become a rep tbh) but can I ask what's it actually like being a rep? Is it rewarding or just a way of having more rubbish to deal with?

Poshjock Sat 17-Feb-18 23:08:06

Usually anyone showing an interest is given the opportunity to undertake training to become a workplace rep and there are loads of courses over and above the basic rep course on H&S and employment law, union set up, representing minority groups etc. They are, IME, useful.

Being a rep can be very hard, people will feel they can phone you with their woes at all manner of odd times and sometime ask you to represent them even when they have been unbelievably silly. Personally I would say it was rewarding in the sense of being some kind of workplace warrior but if you believe in fairness and representation and want a better view of decisions that are made behind management closed doors it can be. It can also be hard work and if you are too emotionally invested in other peoples issues it can be exhausting too.

Do it because you believe in it, I would say. I am a dye in the wool socialist and I promised that I was not going to get involved in my current job because I was over invested in the last job and it was difficult, however, here I am putting my name down for courses... My passion and drive to help others and seek fairness cannot be extinguished.

strawberrysparkle Sat 17-Feb-18 23:15:39

I would do it but before you get involved make sure you set yourself clear boundaries. Members of staff will try and get you involved in things and they will sometimes be things that are extremely silly. It can be difficult helping represent someone when you don't believe what they are doing is right.

In the wrong workplace it can also make you resent the organisation you work for however it sounds like yours is a good one for employment rights.

If it works it's an excellent experience and CV booster.

Littledrummergirl Sat 17-Feb-18 23:28:54

It can be tough. If you have a good management who want to work with you then you can achieve a lot. If you have a management team led by someone with no respect for the union it can be horrific.
Set clear boundaries for availability.
Remember that everyone in the union is entitled to representation whether you agree with them or not.
Be calm, clear and concise. Find out the facts and make sure you know where to find company policies. You will use these a lot.
Staff will come to you with issues outside of union control, you may have to tell them something they don't like.
Managers may not like you using facts to disagree with them.

It can be incredibly rewarding when you help someone keep their job when they thought all was lost, or just to be able to help colleagues in general.

leghairdontcare Sun 18-Feb-18 01:17:11

What union is it? Most unions need more reps these days.

I'm a unison rep and branch officer. Past the basic training it's pretty much what you make of it. You can get involved in higher level stuff like committees, campaigns and the general politics. I'm also in Labour and would like to run for local government so experience in the union had been hugely beneficial.

Otherwise, a lot of case work might be researching employments rights and advising members. You'll have support from your branch and legal team for complicated issues.

KC225 Sun 18-Feb-18 02:59:32

In 2018 - sorry, but it will feel like pissing against a strong wind

echt Sun 18-Feb-18 05:25:20

Managers may not like you using facts to disagree with them

Ha!!

That's me, the union rep. So true.

morningtoncrescent62 Sun 18-Feb-18 08:34:11

What poshjock said. Do it because you believe in the principle of trade unions - that together we're stronger.

In my union you have to do the TUC training before you can be a 'rep' - and being a rep means representing members' interests in negotiations with management over policy, pay and conditions and also representing individual members with employment issues. However, our local branch also welcomes interested volunteers as committee members rather than actual reps. This involves (e.g.) communicating local issues to the branch officers, making sure people know when there are meetings, being part of discussions with branch officers before they go into negotiations and talking to new colleagues locally to encourage them to join. It's a good way to find out more about what the branch does before committing yourself to the range of rep duties. Some people remain at the level of committee members and local contacts, and others go on to do reps training - it's not a given that volunteering for the committee means you have to be a rep, and there's no pressure. Could you ask your branch officers if you could do something like that? Or some other kind of shadowing?

I'm a rep, and as others have said, it can be a pretty thankless task. Facing down management is not for the faint-hearted, and dealing with enquiries from members who regard the union as an insurance service (won't do anything themselves to get involved but expect you to be there for them on demand) is annoying. On the other hand, you get to know the working of your organisation intimately, and it's fantastic when you win something for members, whether collectively (a better policy or pay rise) or individually.

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