As those of you who attended last year’s LSBU Unison AGM will recall I was elected as Branch Secretary whilst retaining my other position as co-Equalities Officer. I was delighted to take up this leading role as I had genuine aims and ideas to work with the Branch Committee in recruiting more members, to encourage current members to take up service positions within the branch and also to recruit reps amongst our outsourced members in order for them to have stronger recognition and self-sufficiency.
What followed a few months later for me was also a new work role within LSBU which meant more responsibilities and new things to learn. At the time I was involved in representing a few complex UNISON cases concerning both branch and outsourced members which required a great deal of my time. As you may or may not be aware union reps do not get facilities (protected) time to attend meetings, research and support outsourced members and with so few serving reps on the committee I found myself feeling rather overwhelmed. In order to protect my own health and wellbeing, I took the decision to stand down as Branch Secretary.
I want you all to know this was not a decision lightly taken: I believe in our union. I am proud of what UNISON has achieved. I hope we will as a branch, regionally and nationally continue to inspire and accomplish despite this Government’s mandate to reduce our powers in this post-Brexit climate. Let’s face it: people who are insecure or scared of others will often try to diminish and reduce their strengths in order to have power over them. I see UNISON’s strengths and stand firm in my commitment to ensure that our rights, equality and parity of opportunity in the workplace remain the integral part of what we stand for as our obligation to you, our members.
What I would ask of you is not only to keep faith with your branch membership but to encourage colleagues who are not yet members to become so. We are only as strong as our numbers.
One of the great benefits of being a steward-officer is being able to attend conferences and link not only with the Greater London Region but also nationally. It is always an education to listen to other people’s experiences, to learn from them and evaluate on a relative basis, the effectiveness of our collaborative working with the Vice Chancellor, the Chief Operations Officer, the Joint Negotiating Committee plus the UCU and JMB unions.
I believe we are doing well, but there is always room for development. The ability to lead the way in terms of how well unions and employers can work together is a massive responsibility and we are ever in need of our members’ assistance. Currently our branch membership is over 500 strong and yet we have only 4 active stewards. Imagine just 5% of our membership in need of a steward right now: maths is not my greatest subject but that is approximately 6 people per rep. Don’t forget we not only represent individuals but also groups and teams as well. It is a commitment, it is voluntary in addition to our jobs and sometimes it can also be thankless! None-the-less I sleep better at night knowing I belong to a group who will bargain on my behalf for better money/work conditions, who will go into bat for me on Health and Safety issues, who will stand with me if I am ever subject to victimisation, or unfair treatment from anyone in this
organisation, who will ensure the Equalities Act 2010 is a lived and worked experience.
Unlike the popular and negative notion that unions are all about striking, we really are
about talking, reasoning and finding workable solutions. That being said, we have to be
prepared to go as far as our rights within the law will take us but if any of you have been
afraid to become more involved because of being worried by how you will be perceived
then let me assure you that in almost 11 years of working at LSBU there have only been
two UNISON strike actions I can recall. What does that tell you? As union members we
are also protected by the Equalities Act so that no-one can penalise us or treat us
differently because we belong to a trade union. To that end I will ask that you become
more active within the branch: we have a vast range of training courses for reps and
officers. If you are interested or would like more information, please contact us and we
will happily respond.
Thank you for your time and I hope you will show support by attending the AGM on
Tuesday 13th March 2018. I would also like to thank Bev Goring for stepping back into
the role of Branch Secretary, Michael Veitch our Chair and all the LSBU UNISON
Branch committee members who give of their time without complaint and with
All the best
Gill Hunte – UNISON LSBU Branch