Angela Blackburn, Branch Secretary

Here’s the latest blog post from Angela:

A trade union is your voice in the workplace, but without you, as a member of our branch, our officers and reps couldn’t do the work we do. Without your voice in the branch, we don’t have the strength to push for change and make the workplace better for everyone. We don’t know what’s going on throughout the whole university without you telling us.

Every time you contact the branch, talk to a rep, attend a members’ meeting, or share one of our social media posts, you are helping us grow stronger. The positive feedback we get from members we’ve supported always makes me feel proud of our branch. Just last year, we supported almost 500 cases.

But contacting us if you have a problem is not the only way to engage with the branch. If we email to ask your opinions, ask you to vote in a ballot for your pay, encourage you to speak to your colleagues about the union, this isn’t just for “the branch”.  This is to allow you, our member, to have your say on the big issues at work. When we all work together to vote in a ballot, for instance, we are showing the employer that we want and need change. We can only make these changes together.

Needless to say that these last 18 months have been difficult for everyone, and we have been contacted by a lot of members with specific concerns about health & safety at work and at home, sharing their thoughts about mental health, anxieties and stress, which have in turn helped us to argue for better provision in these areas from the employer: we suspect that there will be many more such conversations around this for years to come.

Our strength, to be that voice for you, comes from having a membership which is active and engaged and willing to work with the branch to have their say.

Make your voice heard: be active in the union.

Angela’s previous posts:

It’s been a strange time, having to work from home and running the branch through emails and Teams; but, despite the challenges, I think it’s gone well. We have some reps back on campus now, like Matt Barker (Security) and Chris Money (Estates), which is good for those members who are working on campus.

My workload since lockdown began has been manic. More recently, I’ve had lots of meetings with HR about returning to campus, and the wellbeing and health of staff. There have been lots of union discussions with the University and lots of email queries from members (which can take longer when you can’t speak face to face). I’m always trying to work in the best interests of our members and wellbeing, safety and health is paramount. There’s also the usual business of the branch and casework to work through as well.

The biggest challenges have been making sure we’re communicating enough with members and making sure we and they know where to go for help. The main priority right now, with students returning to campus, is to ensure that staff are safe. I’ve had a lot of meetings with HR and managers to make sure this happens. I’ve had lots of paperwork to read and feedback on.  

Since I began working off campus, I’ve found it strange not to have face-to-face contact with reps and members. Everything is more structured but less dynamic – I don’t have quick (unplanned) chats with people anymore, which was often very useful. It’s been a challenge to keep on top of emails and meetings, while remembering to take screen breaks and breaks from my desk. This has proved hard as I no longer have to walk from place to place on campus.

I think it would be good to get feedback from members on how best to communicate with them. We’re about to set up online monthly members’ meetings – we’ll send a link out to members inviting them to join in. Hopefully this will become a habit and we can change them to face-to-face meetings later on.

The new VC has now started and all three unions have written to her. She says she’s happy to meet us and we’re going to meet her in the next few weeks. Our branch is hoping to create a good solid working relationship with the VC.

In the short-term, I’m aiming to make sure we’re communicating well with members and they know that we’re here for them. I’m hoping that these online members’ meetings will really open the lines of communication. The branch is looking again to run a big Christmas raffle but it will be different from previous years. We also want members to know that the Branch Education Fund is still there.  

Once things have settled down a bit, we want to make sure that staff’s return to campus is managed well and we’ll do everything to support this. I’m looking forward to eventually getting back to business as usual, opening up the ‘drop in’ sessions etc.

Finally, I’d like members to know that the branch is going to announce some big wins shortly, so watch this space!