In addition to recruiting new members, one of the rep’s biggest roles is to represent members in discussions with managers, eg at a disciplinary or grievance hearing. You may have to deal with health and safety concerns or you may be called upon to offer advice on issues like time off, holidays, pay, changes to hours, company policies and procedures. In fact a rep’s role can be varied and interesting with the unexpected popping up now and again.
Don’t worry, you’re not expected to be an expert on day one of your new role. Other more experienced reps will be on hand to help, or if you are the only rep at your workplace you can call your local Area Organiser for advice at any time.
As a new rep, you will be placed on a training course as soon as possible which will be held in your area and you will be allowed time off to attend. Once your training has started you will be informed of other training courses that will help build your knowledge, increase your skills and boost your confidence. You will be shown how to use your company’s disciplinary and grievance procedures and you will be given an introduction to employment law.
You may be asked questions you don’t know the answer to – don’t worry. No-one knows the answer to every question and it’s best not to pretend otherwise. Your knowledge base will build up over time, but in the first few months be upfront with members but always seek advice and there’s lots of that on the website for starters, from the Union’s publications and from your local office.
Once you are an established fully-trained rep you will have the responsibility of looking after your members at a local level and you will deal with minor issues. If a situation becomes serious, eg where a member may lose their job, your local Area Organiser will be on hand to deal with this type of scenario. Similarly, if there are potential redundancies, your local Area Organiser again will come in to help you deal with the procedures and legalities.
As a rep you can choose to get involved in the wider work of the Union by attending weekend schools, get-togethers and conferences in your area. You can also opt to get involved in national conferences where you can directly influence the Union’s policies and priorities. There are other activities too but how much you get involved is entirely up to you. It’s a purely voluntary role and your depth of involvement is your choice.
Did you know?
- Usdaw has around 11,000 reps looking after its 433,000 members.
- Usdaw reps are among the best trained in the trade union movement.
- Usdaw reps acquire many new skills, eg how to prepare a case and represent members, how to communicate better with both members and management, how to plan a campaign, how to run a meeting.
- Usdaw reps also acquire knowledge on workers’ rights, employment law, health and safety, pensions, contracts and disciplinary and grievance procedures.
- Any worker can volunteer to be a rep.