Thursday, 14 May 2009

Why you really should join a trade union (or, it's been one of those weeks)

One of the delightful things about my life is just how varied it is (sorry, should I say, "diverse"?) This week has varied from teaching physics to my AS- and A-level students (the day job, I suppose), to speaking about Frank Duff's understanding of the call to holiness of the lay faithful (he wrote about this in 1916 in terms that are pretty much those of Lumen Gentium), to visiting my ward at the local hospital (I do this as a volunteer with the chaplaincy at the hospital I can see out of my back windows, but don't normally blog about it because of confidentiality issues), to progressing the various bits of case work I currently have in my trade union role (and these are varied enough in themselves at the moment), to helping support the work of my science department with a bit of diplomacy/personnel support, to a meeting with the Chief Executive of our local authority (on a Friday afternoon, of all times).

And the trade union case work just comes down the phone line, pretty much without warning. Most of the situations where I help people are not what one would call "major crisis" situations. They are instead the fairly ordinary issues of working life - difficulties arising from working with colleagues who do things a bit differently, coming back from maternity leave, and the like. Except that for the person involved they are not "ordinary" but things that have a major impact on their working lives.

In many cases, a trade union representative has experience and training that means they can give simple, practical advice that helps to improve a situation for someone. Sometimes it is just advising someone how to raise a matter with their manager - so often a situation is allowed to drift on when it should really be faced up to by a manager and resolved. Sometimes it is just the trade union representative's knowledge of procedures that means they can advise a colleague what to do, how to do it and when to do it. My experience is that trade union members just do not make the use of their representatives that they could in these situations.

And, occasionally, I have come across the situation where the trade union advice and support has been essential. I have no doubt that colleagues who face a disciplinary hearing, for example, without the support of a trade union representative have significantly less chance of a fair outcome. And, particularly in teaching, it is quite easy for a little slip (or a disgruntled pupil or parent) to put someone in such a position.

So you really should join a trade union ....

Now, if there is anyone out there having some trouble over their expenses claims and needing a bit of help ....

2 comments:

Francis said...

Absolutley right, Joe. I am astonished at the number of teachers I meet, usually newly or recently qualified, who have no union membership. I always recommend that, regardless of their politics (or your lack of them) they join one if for not the rreason than that in the unfortunate event that they run into a disciplinary issue they can be assured of excellent legal support for free.

Unknown said...

I think I have tried to serve my employer as serving the Lord for 5 years as a cleaner/driver. During that time I had 5 disciplinaries. I didn't have a high opinion of trade unions (bible says be content with your pay, not to retaliate, etc... I am still not sure). I was dismissed at the fifth. I never had representation at any of them except my final appeal hearing they ensured I had a colleague represent me.