Why did you become a steward? What made you take this step?
I became a steward out of frustration! I walked into a UNISON meeting in our workplace (arranged by a local organiser), I was a little late following a disagreement with my line manager; the organiser turned to me as I walked through the door and said ‘You want to be a rep don’t you?’ and I said ‘Yes!’ It is one of the best things I’ve ever done. Perhaps it was right time, right place.
How much of your time do you spend on UNISON activities?
I spend as much time as I can reasonably manage on UNISON activities, which suits me. When you’re working full time and have family commitments it’s crucial that you strike a balance; casework ebbs and flows, there are times when I am very busy with case work and other times when I’m focussed on more general TU duties like admin, attending meetings, policy work and recruitment.
Do you feel supported? Do you know who to go to if you have a difficult case/need more support?
I feel supported by my branch; I think it’s important to prioritise attending Branch Committee – it can be a bit nerve racking as a new rep but the more you attend the sooner you get to know UNISON colleagues around the table and what a valuable support network and resource they are; I often draw too on the experience and advice of our Branch Secretary and Area Organisers.
What’s the best thing about being a UNISON steward?
There are many good things about being a UNISON steward! It is challenging: you must ask yourself all the time ‘what will be the impact on my members?’ It is hugely rewarding: when you have employed a successful strategy or secured a good outcome. It is intellectually stimulating: requiring attention to detail, thorough planning, confident application and time for reflection. Being a UNISON Steward also affords me professional development opportunities that simply aren’t available in my day job. This has helped increase my confidence, my effectiveness as a steward and my skills set in the workplace. The camaraderie that you share with other stewards and with members is great too.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about becoming a steward?
I think if you want to become a steward, you must want to be an effective steward and this requires commitment: attending training, prioritising TU meetings, being prepared to be vocal and visible in the workplace, it can be a daunting prospect but you’re not alone! Don’t let a lack of confidence hold you back because it will grow.