Here is a Q&A with one of our fantastic branch reps:
- Mark Adcock – Brotherton Library Acquisitions
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.