Published on 5 September 2017 by Neil Bland
Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at Unison? Want to know how reps get started? Want to know if this is something you would like to try?
My name is Neil and I work within the Suffolk County Branch in Ipswich. I am a seconded officer from Suffolk County Council and I have worked for the County Council for over 16 years.
My role within the Unison County Branch is Vice Chair to the branch and one of the Health and Safety Officers.
I have been a UNISON member ever since I joined the Council back in 2001 when I relocated to Suffolk from living in Surrey.
I have been an active rep for UNISON for the last 4 years and have now taken a more proactive role and become an officer.
Many of you may think being a UNISON rep/contact or officer is time consuming and that it is difficult to get to grips with the jargon and internal systems of Unison…. STOP! Forget about all of these misconceptions, it is not like this at all and most of all its not scary.
When I was approached to become a rep by the County Branch, I was naturally inquisitive and interested in what goes on behind the scenes of Unison. I felt this is something I could do, but! There is always a but! Can I do it? Will I have time? What qualifications must I have? Is it a selection process? Questions? Questions? Questions?
Take a deep breath! All questions are answered whether silly or serious, training is given and most of all SUPPORT is given by the branch. It is not a case of sink or swim or throw you in the deep end, it is not like that all. I shadowed an experienced officer and attended lots of meetings, training and information sessions to help when I was eventually allocated a case. Yes your first solo case can be daunting and scary but do not let that put you off. Just pick up the phone and ask!
Now, by know you may be wondering how you get the time to do this!!! Well the County Council have with UNISON what is called a Facilities Time Agreement and in that, you are allowed time off to attend training or meetings without having to take what precious annual leave you have.
Once you are accredited as a UNISON rep or caseworker you enter formal discussions with your line manager to take the time off to undertake your UNISON duties. Now some managers will be like “nah you’re not able to” or “too many off on leave or sick” etc etc
This is where your training, knowledge and confidence starts to kick in, to negotiate with management your time off. Don’t be fobbed off; it is within the agreement to undertake UNISON duties.
Are we piquing your interest YET??
I can see frowning. Come on you know this could be interesting, “but what type of cases would I be doing?” Well there are numerous types but it all depends on YOU.
Some of the cases that drop on my desk range from
- Return to work
- Health and Safety
- Pay disputes
- Bullying & Harassment
The above are to name but a few, there is a lot more Unison can do to help and support its members and the rewards are worthwhile.
So where do we go from here, well, go to our website, www.suffolkunison.co.uk and make a general enquiry or give us a ring and speak to one of our team on 01473 263100.
We look forward to hearing from you and maybe one day we could be working alongside each other.
Co-Chair & Health and Safety Officer.