Angela Blackburn, Branch Secretary

Here’s the latest blog post from Angela:

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!