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Anyone else a union organiser?

(32 Posts)
Bproud Fri 25-Oct-13 18:54:02

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?

Talkinpeace Fri 25-Oct-13 20:17:54

don't be like the prat at Grangemouth who nearly lost the jobs of all 800 of the people in the factory

StoorieHoose Fri 25-Oct-13 20:24:37

What talkinpeace said

NK5BM3 Fri 25-Oct-13 20:30:06

Agree with above.

Bproud Fri 25-Oct-13 21:15:32

Thanks for your useful comments, however, I note that most of the questions on this board are answered by 'consult your local union'. I am just trying to support and help my fellow workers.

Talkinpeace Fri 25-Oct-13 21:22:10

My profession is totally non unionised.

However I deal with Unison reps regularly through work and many of them do not do anybody any favours as they are into confrontation rather than compromise.

If you get good at helping your members to negotiate and reach the best outcome rather than the "right" outcome you'll go far and do well.

A good union rep is the articulate voice between the staff and the management - read up on how German Unions get it right.

Pan Fri 25-Oct-13 21:23:48

Bproud - I have lots of union experience, though in last few years have become scum management. Still I am the only manager of my grade still a union rep. and do Capability, Discipline and Grievances. Which really is mainly about mediation.
What is it you need to know most? Lots of things depend on what people expect from you, and how much responsibility they are prepared to accept themselves. Your boundaries need to be healthy and DON'T be put upon.

Rely on your paid officials - it's their job to support you.

NK5BM3 Fri 25-Oct-13 21:46:14

I think a general attitude that doesn't say 'scum management' at everything management says and does round be a good start.

When they need to communicate they aren't always of the screw the workers genre. Sometimes companies are in deep shit and suggesting a strike doesn't really help the situation.

thenightsky Fri 25-Oct-13 21:50:17

Hi OP.

I was a Unison rep for a good few years, but recently gave up due to 'real' job getting too busy and lack of management support (promising paid back-fill and not fullfilling promise).

I have kept on the job evaluation side of things (just given up representation) and I'm in the NHS.

Any help I can offer you is gladly given smile

BrownSauceSandwich Sat 26-Oct-13 11:18:11

Bproud - I'm a relatively recently appointed shop steward. Definitely interested in a bit of moral and practical support. smile

Things I have learnt so far:

1. Get on some union training courses, ideally in person rather than online. The big unions run lots of their own, and TUC courses are open to any reps of affiliated unions. It's a great way to build confidence, and you'll pick up tonnes of information from what your fellow learner a are doing in their workplaces.

2. Some people just hate the unions (see above) but unless they think Dickensian employment practices are something to aspire to, they probably quite like some of the stuff we've achieved over the history of the movement (safer working conditions, women's employment rights, fairer pay, terms of dismissal etc...) You can probably ignore them, and hopefully they'll go away.

3. You aren't responsible on your own... That's not how unions work. You organise your members to fight their own battles. You have the support of the rest of your branch (who may or may not work on the same site as you), so make sure you're in close contact with your other branch reps. And you have the support of head office, so make sure you use that too.

4. Members will use you as a sounding board whenever they have problems with the employer. You have to work out what's a genuine complaint, and what's just a moan to relieve feelings. A moan is perfectly valid, but doesn't always require action. Try asking "well, what have you done about it so far?" If it's not important enough for your member to take action, chances are, you don't need to either!

thenightsky Sat 26-Oct-13 11:47:48

Excellent advise there from Brownsauce. Especially the very last point, which I wish someone had said to me about 10 years ago! I might have saved myself a lot of wasted time grin

AtticusMcPlatypus Sat 26-Oct-13 12:14:02

I've been a union rep for around 5 years now and wholeheartedly agree with BrownSauce's last point above. Some members I have encountered seem to think that the union can sort out all problems with the wave of a magic wand and then blame you/bad mouth you if you can't resolve the problem to their advantage. Some do expect you to do all the work whilst they sit back and do not try to resolve the problem themselves. This is the minority though, most people are completely unaware of their rights at work. I work in an industry which employs many people who often suffer from a low level of education and are not aware of their rights in the workplace which many managers are happy to take advantage of. By taking managers to task on such issues and raising awareness amongst the workforce, I feel that I've made a difference if I can help people to help themselves in future. I love it and it has given me so many life skills that I hope to be able to use when I eventually change career. Defo go on any training courses that your union offer you as I have always found these to be real eye-openers - things I would have ignored/been ignorant of pre being a rep, I now pick my employers up frequently. And you usually get to meet other people from different workplaces and you can share horror stories!!

Talkinpeace Sat 26-Oct-13 14:58:41

just to pick up on BrownSauce's 2nd point.

My profession is not unionised. But Accountancy is not generally regarded as being very Dickensian either.

Be open minded and alert.

mercibucket Sat 26-Oct-13 15:29:56

Good on you
It seems to be a hard and sometimes thankless task but I admire you for doing it

BrownSauceSandwich Sat 26-Oct-13 21:41:35

Talkinpeace, really my point is that even non-unionised workplaces have reaped the benefits of union campaigns. When workers' rights are enshrined in law, there's no exemption for employers who don't recognise unions. Accountancy has benefited from union achievements just like every other profession. And while there may not a specific union for accountants, my union represents plenty of them, and my grandfather was an accountant and an active union member.

Talkinpeace Sat 26-Oct-13 21:45:18

Fair points, but Unions need to dwell on what the offer now and in the future, rather than what they did in the past

thenightsky Sat 26-Oct-13 22:58:52

I don't they 'dwell' in the past. they continue to move forward.

Just people shouldn't take for granted that rights they have now came from nowhere. Unions did that!

thenightsky Sat 26-Oct-13 22:59:52

* I don't think. they dwell in the past.

<keyboard issues>

stargirl1701 Sat 26-Oct-13 23:03:39

Most work place reps are offered training. Talk your HQ. You need to open the union mail, hold regular meetings to update members on news coming from HQ, raise the profile of any current campaigns, check the membership list once a year, encourage new employees to join, have the contact details for paid reps if advice is needed and be a listening ear.

Talkinpeace Sat 26-Oct-13 23:08:26

But people will take it for granted. That is human nature.
So what are the forward objectives of unions.

Real discussion.

Accountants are non unionised because we are all highly qualified and can argue the legs off donkeys on our own behalf.

School dinner ladies and bin men and council grounds staff are not eloquent and union reps are essential in getting the point across on their behalf.

But it must be done in the context of where we are now and where we need to be : so accepting that all DB pensions are unaffordable, as are many 'perks' negotiated in the 80's and 90s
as if they are continued, the next generation will have no 'perks' at all

skylerwhite Sat 26-Oct-13 23:12:50

^Accountants are non unionised because we are all highly qualified and can argue the legs off donkeys on our own behalf.

School dinner ladies and bin men and council grounds staff are not eloquent and union reps are essential in getting the point across on their behalf.^

That's a little bit condesecending, I think. FWIW, I'm an university lecturer, am well capable of arguing my case, but see the value and importance of union membership. And I think unions should continue to shout loudly about all the benefits and rights for all workers that have stemmed from union activities in the past.

stargirl1701 Sat 26-Oct-13 23:15:10

No, unions are about the power of the group rather than the individual.

Talkinpeace Sat 26-Oct-13 23:16:02

but as you fight for pensions and tenure that are not available to new post docs, why should they support your union?

and does it not bug you that full time union officials award themselves mega salaries and pensions and perks and free houses that none of their members get any more (yes, Bob Crow I mean you)?

thenightsky Sat 26-Oct-13 23:19:43

yes... I agree that human nature is what it is.

Unions now are fighting to keep the ground that has been gained and, believe me, that is getting tougher and tougher. I believe that a lot people do not understand the history behind the rights they currently have.

<un-eloquent response due to cava and voddie>

stargirl1701 Sat 26-Oct-13 23:21:11

I think unions should be fighting to outlaw these zero hour contracts. It just seems like simple exploration to me.

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