PCS Learning: Just being a member isn’t enough

These PCS reps took part in a recent pilot residential course in Yorkshire, part of our newly-refreshed Trade Union Education programme.

The five-day ‘Next Steps’ training – for experienced reps who have completed their initial building blocks training and want to develop further – was organised through a new partnership between the PCS Academy and Northern College in Barnsley. See here for more.

Topics covered include advanced organising skills, mentoring, bargaining theory and practice, political and economic contexts for trade unionism and challenging on equalities.
How did our reps get involved in PCS and what did they get out of the course?

 

Rhiane Fatinikun, DWP Bolton: I have been a member since September 2016 and became a rep almost immediately.  I was told at my induction that the union needed reps – I had been bullied in a previous job so was keen to make sure that the same thing didn’t happen to anyone else.

I signed up for the Next Steps course because I wanted to acquire more skills.. and learn more about legal matters and the background of the union itself.

The course has given me ideas of what I can do in terms of recruitment, starting campaigns and getting people on side.

Sometimes it can be hard to manage members’ expectations, particularly with personal cases, because the employer’s policies are so rigid, but this course has helped.  It’s important to show the members – and non-members – that there is power in numbers and we can do a lot more and achieve more things together, collectively.  Apathy is like a disease and we need to inspire people to get more involved.

The course included a section on the benefits of becoming part of a union, and looking at where lots of the benefits in workplaces today have come from.  They’re nearly all because of the unions!”
 

Marco Griffiths, Welsh Government: “I joined PCS in 2013, as an apprentice, and became a rep in 2017.

I had previously sat on the Youth Parliament and I was still keen to represent young voices at work, so I became a rep.  I am the young members’ convenor for my branch.

I always say you’ve got nothing to lose – don’t just complain about something, you should actually try to do something about it.

You can see the influence that PCS has in the Welsh Government and decisions that are made.  We celebrate decisions in our favour so that people know what we’re doing and achieving.

One of these successes is our Wellbeing Hour.  Staff have an hour a week, paid, to do whatever they want, when they want, as long as it is connected in some way with wellbeing.  It might be mindfulness, or going to the gym or just for a walk.

I found the Next Steps course to be really useful.  It’s good to know what else is going on.  It’s also interesting to see the attitude of other employers and departments to reps and union training; for example, I got facility time to take the course but some people had to take annual leave.

The sections on recruitment and campaigning have been particularly interesting.  The Welsh Government is different to the national government and members can feel isolated from national campaigns, so it’s sometimes hard to get people involved.

We are involved in inductions for new starters, but it’s hard to catch people later and sign them up once they’ve started.  Also non-members don’t always see the campaigning materials or information that we produce, so it’s good to get ideas on how to get the message out.”
 

Hannah Mason and Jasmine Froggatt (left), R&C East Midlands branch: “I have worked for HMRC for over a year and was active in the union from day one.  My parents were involved in PCS so it wasn’t something I even needed to think about.

I am the assistant branch secretary and Hannah is the branch secretary.  We’re the youngest members of our BEC.  Hannah has helped me a lot and has mentored me through dealing with personal cases.  There’s help and support at every stage.

We only have 12 reps for a branch with 900 members so it would be great if more members would step up to help out.  We want to engage more with apprentices as we have funding to work with them.  We’ve been attending inductions and at a recent one we signed up eight of the 13 to be members – they were all apprentices.

We were both given facility time to attend this course, and our management understand the need for union reps to be trained.  Some managers don’t understand what unions do and think they’re only about industrial action.  We can sell the benefits of the union to management, particularly with apprentices and the union getting involved in their training.”

 

“I’ve been active in the union for 14 years.  My godmother had been in a nursing union and when I started work she said ‘you need to be a member but you also need to be active. Just being a member isn’t enough’.

I have experienced bullying at work and want to make sure that it doesn’t happen to anyone else.

You don’t have to be scared about taking on a rep position and no amount is too little.  Even if you can only give a couple of hours a week, you could get involved by becoming an advocate.  It doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time but it can make a massive difference to lots of members.”

Updated 11 Febuary 2019

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