It takes one to know one: meet our people – Gabby

Gabby Houlgraves

UNISON Steward, Branch Communications Officer, Kent Local Government Branch

How long have you been active in the union and what roles do you hold?

I’ve been a member for 15 years. I’ve been active in UNISON since July 2018, and I’m currently a workplace steward and Branch Communications Officer.

What made you take this step?

I became active because there was a vicious attack at one of the libraries I work at, and our nearest steward was 2 districts away. I thought: we shouldn’t really have to go that far to find a representative, so I stepped up. I haven’t regretted it for a minute!

What’s the best thing about being active in UNISON? Any success stories you can tell us about?

The best thing about being active in UNISON is how rewarding it is, on both personal and professional levels. It has made me more confident and assertive both at work and in my personal life, as an advocate for my autistic son and in calling out racism and discrimination. I’m also more politically active (finally became a party member!). The training I’ve had has been so very useful and empowering, and meeting reps from across the country at training days, conferences, and events has given me friends I treasure highly. We keep in touch through WhatsApp and have started organising get-togethers to catch up and have a laugh!

At work, it is incredibly satisfying to be able to stand up for my members and resolve problems that would otherwise become grievances or injustices. I am proud to say that with the support of my steward group and the branch we now have more robust security systems and safety training that is being rolled out to all Kent library branches, and our steward group has become increasingly active and vocal. We really are stronger together!

What would you say to someone who is thinking about becoming active?

Do not hesitate. Do it. You get all the training and support you need from branch and region. You will grow and help others grow. As the saying goes, “If not you, who? If not now, when?”