Meet the Rep

Here are some Q&As with some of our fantastic branch reps.




ROSE BAVAGE

1. What’s your role?
School’s Outreach for the Faculty of Biological Sciences, in the Educational Engagement department. We work with schools across the country to raise awareness of, and aspirations to, the University, by running events, workshops, festivals, lectures etc.

2. Why did you become a UNISON rep?
A general election result that made me concerned for the future of workers (amongst other people).

3. How long have you been a UNISON rep?
18 months (started July 2015).

4. What’s the most frequent member request/problem?
Issues with job grading.

5. What’s the best thing about being a rep?
Talking to members and non-members, and meeting other union workers. You never stop learning things and it’s a great feeling to meet people with common values. There are often new opportunities to learn, train, travel and be heard as well, and new reps are made to feel welcome to get involved as much as they like.

6. And the worst?
Juggling all the things you want to do for the union and for your job, and having to decode long, jargon-filled documents.

7. How hard is it to balance your rep responsibilities and your role?
It’s mostly interesting or fun, so not too hard, but only if you’ve got some spare time of your own to spend on it. When you don’t, it becomes much harder.

8. How hard was the training?
The training was a great experience – you learn and hear a lot about the issues faced by other branches and workplaces in Yorkshire. The best training happens back in your workplace though – your ‘homework’ is to learn how your branch works and meet members and other reps.

9. Would you recommend being a rep to others?
Absolutely – it’s what you make of it and there’s a huge amount of opportunity to be heard and make a difference if that’s what you want to do.

10. Anything else you’d like to add?
The more I learn the more it feels like next few years are going to be challenging, politically and legally. There are a lot of new laws and policies coming through that will disadvantage people I know. It’s a big responsibility to try and fight this but it’s so important to defend what we have.



MARTIN PELAN

1. What’s your role at the University?
Student Support Officer at the School of Education.

2. Why did you become a UNISON rep?
I enjoyed being a rep while in the Civil Service. After working at the University for several years I was keen to build on my previous experience to help members across the campus.

3. How long have you been a UNISON rep?
I was elected rep for the School of Education in 2014.

4. What’s the most frequent member question?
I’m often asked about the additional ‘non-workplace’ services, such as car insurance, holidays, legal services etc. One member was pleased UNISON now offered pet insurance!

5. What’s the best thing about being a rep?
I like helping people find out more about UNISON – people are usually surprised to hear we have nearly 1,000 members on campus.

6. And the worst?
I get annoyed with non-members saying “There’s no point joining a union”, when they are enjoying terms and conditions that are better than those in non-union workplaces.

7. Is it easy to balance your rep responsibilities and your role?
It’s easy – the School of Education has always been very supportive of my role.

8. How was the training?
It was relatively easy – the main challenge was watching my waistline, as I got quite addicted to my weekly fry-up at the café next door to the college!

9. Would you recommend being a rep?
Absolutely. In addition to helping your UNISON colleagues it’s an opportunity to develop new skills in really interesting areas, such as negotiation, marketing, recruitment and so on.

10. Anything to add?
Don’t believe the anti-union stories in the media – our branch is growing and will grow even more, especially if more members get involved as reps and help us continue to improve the working environment for university staff.



MARK ADCOCK

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

1. What’s your role?

I work in the Acquisitions department of the Library, based in the Brotherton.

2. Why did you become a UNISON rep?

I was ‘volunteered’ by someone else to become a health and safety rep and found it very rewarding. When a vacancy came up to be shop steward in the Library I jumped at the chance.

3. How long have you been a UNISON rep?

I’ve been a health and safety rep for over four years and a shop steward for just over two years.

4. Most frequent member request / problem?

In my area it’s usually about working temperatures. The reception desk at Edward Boyle Library can be particularly cold in winter. There have been some ‘wins’ in this area – management agreed to buy fleeces for all staff and buy under-desk heaters, but sometimes even that isn’t enough.

5. The best thing about being a rep?

Getting a better outcome for a member, or making a potentially difficult situation easier for them to handle. You can’t always manage it, but when you do it’s a great feeling.

6. And the worst?

Managers that won’t budge on really simple, obvious changes that a member is requesting, with union backing. The manager isn’t doing anything wrong, but it’s really unhelpful and often upsetting for the member(s) concerned.

7. How hard is it to balance your rep responsibilities and your role?

I’m fortunate to have an understanding line manager these days who is usually OK with me taking facility time. As long as I communicate consistently with my requests then it usually works well for all concerned.

8. How hard was the training?

The training was more detailed than you might imagine, taking in aspects of employment law and health and safety regulations that seem quite impenetrable on the surface. The TUC has some great tutors, though it’s sad that many FE colleges that carry Trade Union Studies have either closed or abolished the courses.

9. Would you recommend being a rep?

Definitely. If you’re not happy with the way things are in your area / faculty / department then get in touch with the branch (unison@leeds.ac.uk) and we can advise you on what to do about becoming a rep. The branch supports your learning and training and there are plenty of opportunities to gain experience. If you want to make a difference, whatever your role is, the union is the best way to start.

10. Anything else you’d like to add?

I never thought I would be a union rep when I was younger, but now I’m involved I see what a difference UNISON makes here at the university and in every workplace. There is so much to it and it has boosted my self-esteem and given me the confidence to communicate more effectively with senior members of staff. The first priority is that I’m useful to my members, but UNISON has also been incredibly useful for me personally.



LEE BRYAN

1. What’s your role at the University?

I’m a Plumber within Estates.

2. What made you become a UNISON rep?

To help members who haven’t really got a voice and to stand up for them. Also to be able to carry out the necessary training involved to become a rep which was both a challenge but very rewarding.

3. How long have you been a UNISON rep?

I’ve now been a rep since 2010, firstly carrying out my reps 1 and 2 training in the same year, then, in 2013, I decided to become a Health and Safety Rep and have since gone on to complete levels 1 and 2 and I’ve also just completed my Health and Safety Diploma.

4. What’s the most frequent member request/problem?

Generally bullying in the workplace.

5. What’s the best thing about being a rep?

Helping members, also the training we get via trade union studies has been brilliant for me and I have made many good friends through the different courses I have studied on

6. And the worst?

When you lose a case it can be very frustrating.
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7. How easy/hard is it to balance your rep responsibilities and your role?

I’m fortunate and say it was quite easy, although I understand it isn’t quite so easy for some of my colleagues within branch.

8. How easy/hard was the training?

The training is as hard or easy as you want to make it. I was never really bothered at school and wouldn’t pretend to be very academic, but the little brain power I do have I put into good use. I work at home on my course which really helps me get the results I want.

9. Would you recommend being a rep to others?

Yes of course, it has given me confidence to sit on committees and be able to talk on level terms with management and higher management and get my point across.

10. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Yes, join a union, because unity is strength.