Representing Members: Talk it through with an experienced rep

In the latest of our columns from activists, we hear from Davina Camadoo – an Executive Officer at the DWP in Avon – who became active after getting help from her own PCS rep and deciding she wanted to give something back to the union.

Here she passes on some of the things she’s learned from representing her members at work:

“Alongside my job as a Decision Maker, I’m a health and safety rep and also our employee relations rep for PCS.

My first personal case was tricky. I had only just started as a rep in the office and an urgent case arose which I was able to deal with. I had previously done volunteering as a Complaints Procedure Advocate at the Care Forum so I felt I was able to take on the case with some support, which I got from my GEC colleague who signposted me to resources and helped me to keep focused.

It was an extremely complex case involving discrimination, standards of behaviour and attendance management. The matter went through ACAS and prior to the case management discussion, I was instructed by the member to withdraw the claim. It was a strong case but they had settled in a new job and didn’t want to traumatise themselves further with the process.

My most successful case involved standards of behaviour, misuse of social media and attendance management. The member was able to return to work earlier than expected with reasonable adjustments in place.

The key things I have learned are to:

  • Talk through issues in a case with an experienced colleague
  • Build a rapport with your member, and establish all available facts
  • Request evidence early, to help weigh up the chances of success
  • Calculate timescales immediately and be familiar with the grievance process. PCS Legal advice are available to discuss legalities.
  • Remember that confidentiality is paramount and talk through this at the first opportunity so it’s clearly understood
  • Always let the member know what you are doing and what you will be doing next
  • And never guarantee anything. You can only offer your member a good presentation of the facts and representation in areas they might not understand.

Other cases I’ve dealt with have been quite sad due to bullying elements. The difficulty with these cases is that the victim is often scared to be moved away from what would otherwise be a fine working environment. Grievances often don't get pursued for this reason.

In these cases, I help the member to try and keep their chin and spirits up and remind them there are advice lines if they need further support, and that they can take comfort in the fact that there are others fighting the same fight.
I've enjoyed helping members by representing them or listening to them. I would happily help someone in need any time… which takes me back to my first union rep, who helped me when I was unwell and trying to stay in work, despite the onset of a medical condition, and to whom I am forever indebted.”

Updated 24 October 2018

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