Issuu on Google+

Still making a dierence The continuing impact of trade union education on Britain’s workplaces

A union reps survey report by Doug Gowan


Contents Foreword

2

About this report Research aims Methodology Unions

2 3 4 6

About TUC Education Developments in TUC Education Previous research

4 5 5

Section 1 About the respondents Gender Age Ethnic origin Disability Regions and nations Employment pattern Employment sector Workplace size

7 7 7 8 9 9 10 12 13

Section 2 Union rep roles How long in role Union positions held Time spent on union rep work Changes in activity

14 14 15 16 17

Section 3 About the courses When attended Which course? Online courses Why go online? Release for courses Value of TUC Education Importance of skills How the courses helped Views on qualifications After the course Campaign awareness

18 18 19 21 21 22 23 25 26 27 29 30

Section 4 In their own words How reps benefited from the courses Getting started as a rep Finding information Practical skills and methods Meeting management Tackling problems Learning from others Qualifications Motivation

32 32 32 32 33 33 34 34 34 35

Still making a dierence


Section 5 Still making a difference? Recruitment Involving members Ways of working Team working and developing reps Negotiations and agreements Improving union organisation Improving the working environment Equality issues Changes in role

36 36 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 42

Section 6 Some conclusions and recommendations

43

www.tuc.org.uk


Foreword Now more than ever we need well trained, confident, visible union reps. TUC Education has an unrivalled reach into Britain’s workplaces to provide education and training for workplace representatives. Figures for 2012 show more than 52,000 union reps took advantage of our offer – high quality courses designed for reps, delivered by dedicated trade union tutors, and accredited through the national adult learning framework, the QCF. Overall, the number of reps trained each year over the last ten years has increased by 119 per cent despite the difficulties many reps face in obtaining release. This is a continuing upward trend and reflects union reps’ thirst for learning, as well as the growing complexity and sophistication of their roles. The quality of trade union education across the UK is very high – OFSTED inspectors have consistently graded TUC Education units at 1 (outstanding), and union education officers are closely involved in maintaining relevance and accessibility. Trade union education is education with a purpose. So we wanted to find out what impact the training had back where it counts. The first impact study was published in 2010 and was the largest survey of trade union education ever conducted, with full survey returns from 1,046 reps. This second version drew on an even larger sample with returns from 2,400 representatives. The results are impressive. Almost two in three union reps took the trouble in this survey to give concrete examples of what they have done back at work as a consequence of being trained. The message is clear – Britain is better for the work of unions and their reps who continue to make a difference. We would like to thank all those hundreds of union reps who took the time to complete the survey, whilst making a difference in the workplace and supporting their colleagues and workmates. We will be conducting follow-up surveys over the next two years to find out more about the difference reps make and we welcome feedback to Liz Rees lrees@tuc.org.uk.

Paul Nowak TUC Assistant General Secretary

1

Still making a difference


This report presents the results of extensive research into the profile and activity of trade union representatives who had recently undergone courses in the TUC Education programme, including those provided in association with affiliated unions. It builds on the previous research, Making a Difference: The impact of trade union education on Britain’s workplaces, published in 2010. A key aim was to follow up on the earlier survey and to see what trends, if any, had emerged in the intervening four years. The earlier survey had been conducted a year after the banking crash and the subsequent severe economic downturn. The impact of that downturn was beginning to be evident in the research, with union reps reporting a growing volume of redundancies and other problems facing union members. The coalition government took power in 2010. Four years later, output is still below its 2008 level. An issue to examine, therefore, was whether the changed climate had made an impact on how trade union representatives could take lessons learned on courses back to their workplaces. This survey was conducted at the end of 2013 and based on union representatives attending TUC courses of any type over the previous five years. It included newly elected representatives with little – in some cases no – experience, as well as reps with several union posts and 20 years or more of union activity. The sample was randomly drawn, with no attempt to make a selection based on any criterion other than availability of an email address. Almost 2,400 representatives returned the surveys online, an excellent response rate of 13.4 per cent, though somewhat lower than the 2009 survey. Of these, over 1,500 – almost two out of three – wrote in a free text response to a question asking what changes they had made as a result of attending a TUC course. This report will be of interest to all those interested in the work of trade union representatives and trade union education, and how to make sure it continues not only to be fit for purpose but also to improve.

Research aims As in 2009, the research aimed to find out who the course participants were, what union roles they carried out, how far TUC courses helped them develop the skills they need for their role, and whether there had been any impact on changes in the workplace and in the union. Questions were added to investigate developments in recent years, including the continued development of qualifications for TUC courses, the growing use of online courses, issues over release from work, and how reps developed their networks following a course. We also wished to see what changes, if any, there had been in the role and activities of TUC-educated union reps over the last four years.

2

www.tuc.org.uk


The research investigated these questions: • What is the profile of participants in TUC courses for union reps? Do the courses reach newly appointed as well as more established reps? • What are their age, gender and ethnic origin profiles? • What release from work arrangements had participants used to attend their course? • What tasks do union reps carry out, both frequently or less often? • Which of these tasks are increasing or decreasing? • How do union reps rate the skills needed to carry out their role, and which are the most important? • How far do TUC courses meet the participants’ needs? • If respondents had taken part in an online course, what was their reason for doing so? • How important is gaining a qualification? • Are the reps able to put into practice lessons learned on the courses in their workplace and/or trade union?

Methodology Methods used for the research were both quantitative and qualitative. Data collection was through an online survey distributed by email. The survey also included free text answers on what respondents had gained from the course, and how they had been able to apply the lessons of the course in their workplace and union. Respondents were asked to volunteer for a follow-up phone interview. The aim of these was to elicit further detail and concrete examples of changes resulting from attendance at courses, allowing short case studies to be written. The interview sample was selected to cover, as far as possible, different types of course, trade unions and country or region. The follow-up phone interviews were semi-structured and designed to take up to 10 minutes to complete. Outputs from the interviews are reflected in the case study boxes in this report.

Unions The following unions took part in the survey: Accord Aegis ASLEF ATL BALPA BFAWU BSA

3

Community CSP CWU EIS Equity FBU FDA

Still making a difference

GMB Napo NASUWT NUJ NUT PCS PFA

POA Prospect RMT SCP SoR TSSA UCATT

UCU UNISON Unite Urtu Usdaw


About TUC Education

1

TUC Education for union representatives covers all countries and regions of the United Kingdom, working in partnership with a range of further and adult education colleges and delivering a broad programme of courses. Participants come from a wide range of industries and unions. They may hold degree and higher level qualifications or none at all. And yet, in spite of this huge diversity, it is possible to investigate TUC Education as an entity. This is because TUC Education is built on a system of shared values, approaches and methods that have been consistently developed over more than 35 years. Some of the key features of the TUC Education approach are: • Dedicated trade union education tutors. While there is some opportunity for preference and specialisation among tutors, the customary approach is for tutors to develop the ability to teach across a wide range of subjects. The tutors are thus in an analogous position to reps on their courses, having to deal with a wide range of information and issues that are often subject to rapid change. The survey did not ask specific questions about them but a number of respondents commented on the positive role played by their tutors. • Problem solving as a core approach. Trade union representatives are faced with a wide variety of problems and issues that are affected by changes in legislation and industrial and economic conditions. In these circumstances, there is no one fixed body of knowledge that they can acquire to equip them for their role. The TUC Education approach is rather to focus on problem-solving and information-finding skills, using a systematic approach. This then equips the reps with flexible, adaptable skills that are built on knowing where to find useful information rather than acquiring obsolescent knowledge. In TUC Education the systematic problem-solving approach is often known as the Problem – Information – Plan (PIP) method. The survey asked about respondents' rating of problem-handling skills, and how far the courses had helped to develop them. Free text replies also commented on systematic ways of working as a union rep. • Team working and collaboration. A key to being effective for many union reps is to work in a team with other reps. On the TUC courses collaboration is developed by using small-group working to tackle problems. The survey asked about time spent talking to other reps. Many free text comments pointed to the confidence-building aspects of working with others, reducing the sense of isolation that many new representatives report. • Active and relevant learning. Throughout TUC courses there is a system of workplace reports. In this system topics are introduced on courses through an investigation by the course participants of issues arising in their workplace and trade union. Thus the courses are designed to be situated in real issues and problems to be solved – they are contextualised to use some educational terminology. The survey asked how far respondents had been able to discuss their workplace issues on the courses. 4

www.tuc.org.uk


• Skills integration. Since its early days, TUC Education has adopted the approach of integrating skills development into all course activities. An important focus of the survey was on the respondents' priorities for skills development and an assessment of how far their courses helped.

Developments in TUC Education Since the 2010 report there have been a number of key developments in TUC Education. These changes have been brought about by the need to improve flexible access to education through online courses, exploit the opportunities raised by new qualification structures, and extend the range of provision to higher-level diploma courses. As we shall see, these developments are reflected in the research.

Previous research Doug Gowan (2010). Making a Difference: The impact of trade union education on Britain’s workplaces, unionlearn research report. Nicolas Bacon and Kim Hoque (2009). The Impact of the Union Learning Representative: A survey of ULRs and their employers, Nottingham University Business School, unionlearn research paper. Doug Gowan (2009). Evaluating the Union Equality Representatives Project, Open Learning Partnership, unionlearn research paper. Doug Gowan (2008). TUC Education and the QCF: User experience research, Open Learning Partnership, National Open College research paper. Brian Corrigan (2008). TUC Education and Online Learning, Stow College. Alison Hollinrake (2006). Union Learning Representative Research Report – North West, Lancashire Business School, unionlearn report. Charles Laxton and John Rodger (2005). Review of the TUC Education Service, York Consulting. David Walters and Peter Kirby (2002). Training and Action in Health and Safety, South Bank University, TUC research report. E Capizzi (1999). Learning that Works: Accrediting the TUC programme, NIACE/TUC report. As in 2010, this research builds on, adds to and updates the earlier reports. Combined with the earlier surveys, this body of work is essential reading for anyone concerned with the continued development and effectiveness of trade union education, and in particular how it is changing in response to new circumstances and needs.

5

Still making a difference


case study

Tackling bullying Avtar works in a college and has been branch chair for three years. He also works as an equality rep and previously was a union learning representative. Using experience and skills learned at a TUC course, Avtar was able to help a member who had been bullied for a year. There had been an increase in this type of issue. Knowledge and information from TUC courses covered bullying and harassment at work – knowing the definition, what constitutes illegitimate behaviour, understanding the importance of stamping it out before it gets too serious, awareness that the priority is to stop events happening in the first instance. He feels there’s a need for a change of approach by encouraging better employer policies, and more encouragement to tackle problems at the ‘earliest opportunity’– a move to proactive from reactive. There can be a lack of recognition that unions and reps are doing the employer a favour by taking responsibility for their members in trying not to waste time, money and effort – such as by avoiding grievances. He believes that by being empowered as a rep we are able to empower members themselves – shared empowerment.

6

www.tuc.org.uk


Section 1 About the respondents

Gender Figure 1 shows the gender breakdown of respondents.

Figure 1 Gender

More than two out of five (40.9 per cent) were female – far from the stereotype of a largely male group of trade union activists.

Female 813 Male 1,174

Four-year trend There is virtually no change in the ratio, the female participation in 2010 being 42.2 per cent.

Age Figure 2 shows that two out of three respondents were between 26 and 54. Encouragingly, one in ten was between 16 and 25, with few over the age of 65.

Four-year trend

Figure 2 Age

The age breakdown shows no significant change.

16–25 22 25–34 212 35–44 438 45–54 1,000 55–64 622 65+ 47

00 7

www.tuc.org.uk Still making a difference

1


1 Ethnic origin The predominant group was white European, as Figure 3 shows. A large proportion did not feel that the categories offered represented their situation and responded with 'other'.

Four-year trend

Figure 3 Ethnic origin

The ethnic categories used were different from those in 2010 and thus a direct comparison is not possible.

Bangladeshi 5 Black African 23 Black Caribbean 35 Black Other 10 Chinese 5 Indian 32 Mixed 33 Other 216 Pakistani 15 Prefer not to say 76 White European 1,603 White Other 272

Disability Almost one in six reported themselves as having a disability, as shown in Figure 4.

Four-year trend

Figure 4 Disability

There is a significant increase over 2010, where one in eight reported a disability.

Yes 324 No 1,718

8

www.tuc.org.uk


case study

Building rapport Kathy works in a large supermarket in the North East. She has been a union member for 12 years and a workplace rep for two years. She has worked in retail for 29 years, and was a manager for many years. Kathy has managed to resolve all issues and problems before they got to the formal grievance stage. She has learned to build rapport with members and managers. Kathy likes to sit down with members and explain issues, listen to their views and give a union view. She has been pleased with how this works to build good relationships with the membership. Last year she only had to deal with one disciplinary. Kathy works hard to see issues from both the management and the union side and explains this to other reps. Management also ask her views. She is encouraging other reps in the supermarket to resolve their own cases and problems rather than always relying on her. She is also encouraging members to become reps.

9

Still making a dierence


1 Regions and nations Figure 5 shows the spread of respondents across UK nations and regions.

Four-year trend

Figure 5 Regions and nations

The larger sample size and better data collection have resulted in better representation from UK nations and regions. This will mean it may be possible to produce a geographical breakdown of the results.

Midlands 266 North-west 422 Northern 67 Northern Ireland 9 Not sure 9 Other 111 Scotland 124 South-east 707 South-west 441 Wales 26 Yorkshire and the Humber 156

Other choices entered included London, East Anglia, Gibraltar and the Channel Islands.

Employment pattern

Figure 6 Employment pattern

Figure 6 shows the employment pattern of respondents. Almost three out of four worked full-time. The second biggest group, however, were part-time workers, illustrating that trade union reps are reflecting employment patterns in the workforce as a whole. 'Other' work patterns reported included term-time and on-call working.

Four-year trend

Full-time 1,907 Part-time 351 Shiftwork 153 Days 45 Other 62 Not answered 50

This issue was not investigated in the 2010 study.

10

www.tuc.org.uk


1 Employment sector The sector in which respondents worked is shown in Figure 7. Most are in the public sector, though there are significant numbers from local, regional and multinational companies, as well as the charity and voluntary sector. A significant number were not sure how to classify their employer: for example, which sector a housing social enterprise or a university should belong to.

Four-year trend

Figure 7 Employment sector

This issue was not investigated in the 2010 study.

Private – local/ regional 117 Private – national 247 Private – multinational 356 Public sector 1,396 Charity/ voluntary sector 63 Not sure 34 Other 123

Workplace size Figure 8 illustrates the size of the respondents' workplaces. One in three was either a small or a medium-sized workplace, with the rest employing over 250.

Four-year trend

Figure 8 Workplace size

This issue was not investigated in the 2010 study.

<50 245 50–249 449 250+ 1,496

11

Still making a difference


case study

Tackling sickness at work Daniel is an experienced workplace rep, and also a health and safety rep, green rep and pensions champion. He works for a social housing organisation. The unions were concerned about sickness levels. This led to the set up of a working group, and prompted agreement to carry out a staff survey. Responses showed workforce interest. Occupational health, organisation development, HR and all the unions decided to work with the results. Daniel advocated a supportive rather than punitive approach to trying to reduce sickness – ’let’s look at it a different way’. Successful joint union–employer working has continued at monthly meetings, which Daniel attends. He recently led an initiative on mental health awareness. A successful partnership has been developed with the Community Foundation of the city’s football club. A key success has been reduced sickness levels. Fewer sickness hearings are taking place, so there are fewer for reps to attend, freeing up time for other important work.

12

www.tuc.org.uk


Section 2

2

Union rep roles This section moves on to look at the roles carried out by the union reps, including what position they held and for how long, what their key tasks were and how they were changing.

How long in role Figure 9 shows the length of time they had held any union representative role. While the biggest group has been in place between two and five years, significant numbers were less experienced than this, including newly elected reps with less than a year's experience. Alongside these relatively experienced reps are groups with longer exposure to union work. As in 2010, the broad spread among the respondents reflects the range of courses they attended, including the introductory courses for new reps, follow-on and specialised courses for established reps, and the diploma courses at Level 3 designed for reps with extensive responsibility. The value of sharing experience is frequently commented on positively by the respondents. Figure 9 How long a union rep

800 700 600 500 400 300 200 100 0

less than a year

20+ years

10-19 years

1-2 years

5-9 years

2-5 years

Four-year trend Given the predominance of less-experienced reps, we can deduce that most of the respondents were not in position at the time of the 2010 report. The pattern of experience, however, is broadly similar four years later. 00 13

www.tuc.org.uk Still making a diďŹ&#x20AC;erence


2 Union positions held Figure 10 shows the union positions held by respondents. As in 2010, the most common roles were workplace representative and health and safety representative, with two out of five respondents saying they served on a branch committee. Union learning representative, equality representative, disability champion, pensions champion and green rep roles are all well represented in the survey. The graphic shows a used-to-hold indicator for each type of post. This in most cases is a substantial figure and suggests a willingness by union reps to move between roles and possibly take up new roles as they emerge, such as the ULR, disability champion and green rep roles. The total number of roles carried out exceeds the number of respondents since a number of reps carried out two or more roles. The ratio of roles to respondents was 1.8, though the largest group held only one role. Figure 10 Union positions held

1,600 1,400

previously held hold now

1,200 1,000 800 600 400 200 0

workplace rep

health branch and commsafety rep ittee

union equality pensions disability learning rep champ- champrep ion ion

green rep

Four-year trend Green reps are featured for the first time. Otherwise the distribution of the various types of rep is broadly similar to 2010. The ratio of union rep positions has, however, fallen significantly from the 2010 figure of 2.1. It is not clear why this is the case but may indicate that on the whole respondents are less experienced than in the earlier study.

14

www.tuc.org.uk


case study

Resurrecting the safety committee Marcus has been a union member for 20 years and a union rep for 15. He works in the IT department of a local council. After attending the TUC Stage 1 and Stage 2 Health and safety courses, he took on the position of branch health and safety officer. He approached the council to resurrect safety committees for four departments, and to create a new corporate safety committee to ensure councillors were kept in touch. These committees make recommendations to the joint consultative committee. This helps keep everyone informed about what is going on. Sharing experiences of other reps on the courses and learning what others have done in their workplaces was valuable. Back in the workplace he was able to put skills into practice by setting up the improved arrangements. He actively encourages other union members to become reps.

15

Still making a diďŹ&#x20AC;erence


2 Time spent on union rep work Figure 11 shows the combination of union rep activities undertaken by respondents and their frequency. Every week most respondents talk to members and other union reps, and find information. Nearly all meet management, but rather less frequently. Most reps are involved in recruiting members and handling their casework. The least common activity is attending regional or national union meetings, though most reps do this occasionally. Figure 11 Time spent on rep work never

2,500

2,000

occasionally every month 1,500

every week

1,000

talking to members

finding information

talking to other union reps

handling member cases

recruiting members

meeting management

local union meetings

attending union courses

0

regional/national union meetings /events

500

Four-year trend The pattern of activity is similar to 2010, though handling member cases and recruitment have both increased in significance.

16

www.tuc.org.uk


case study

Looking for win-win George works in the funeral service of a not-for-profit organisation and has been a union member for five years. Previously he had worked as manager at a car factory in the Midlands, where he had always found the best approach was to look for win-win situations where both workforce and management could gain from improved conditions. He has carried this approach forward. Enhanced pay and conditions have been achieved through negotiations with local management, and issues have been resolved before they become formalised. Local management buy into and change working practices â&#x20AC;&#x201C; for both employee and management benefit. He tries to work closely with management and promote joint working for common goals. And he makes sure other reps and members are involved in the decision process. The TUC courses gave him the opportunity to see people from other backgrounds and recognise best practice.

17

Still making a diďŹ&#x20AC;erence


2 Changes in activity We now look at what changes had taken place in the reps' activities. Figure 12 shows that talking to members, finding information, talking to other union reps, meeting management and handling member casework all showed strong net increases. Recruiting members also shows good growth, while attending local union meetings is balanced. Net declines are shown in attending regional or national meetings and union courses. Figure 12 Changes in rep work

1,200

1,000

decreasing increasing

800

600

400

talking to members

finding information

handling member cases

talking to other union reps

meeting management

recruiting members

local union meetings

regional/national union meetings /events

0

attending union courses

200

Four-year trend The pattern of change in activities is broadly similar to 2010. This is an indication that several of the key elements in the TUC courses â&#x20AC;&#x201C; talking to members, management and other reps; handling casework; recruiting; and finding information â&#x20AC;&#x201C; continue to have an impact on what the reps do.

18

www.tuc.org.uk


Section 3 About the courses We now go on to look at a number of aspects of the TUC courses the reps attended. When did they attend? Which course? What aspects were most important?

When attended First we look at how recently reps had attended a course. Figure 13 shows the details. Three out of four had attended a course within the last two years, and three out of five within the last year. This means that the great majority of respondents had attended a course long after the 2010 study.

Four-year trend

Figure 13 Latest course attended

There are no comparable data for 2010.

Over five years ago 88 Last two years 317 Over two years ago 334 Last year 642 Last six months 793

19

Still making a diďŹ&#x20AC;erence

3


3 Which course? Given the profile of length of time in office it is no surprise that the highest volume courses are the Stage 1s for union reps and health and safety reps, as Figure 14 shows. There are also substantial numbers for the Stage 2 Certificate and Diploma courses. For the first time a wholly online course â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Getting Ready for E-learning â&#x20AC;&#x201C; appears in the list. Figure 14 Courses attended

1,600 1,400

A Union learning representatives short course

1,200

B Getting ready for e-learning C Certificate in employment law

1,000

D Health and safety representatives short course E Union learning representatives F Diploma (occupational health and safety, employment law, equalities or contemporary trade unionism) G Union representatives short course

800 600 400

H Next steps for safety representatives stage 2

200

I Union representatives stage 2 stepping up

0

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

H

I

J

K

J Health and safety stage 1 K Union representatives stage 1

Four-year trend While the broad pattern is similar to 2010, a direct comparison is not possible since some course categories have changed.

Online courses As noted above, online courses are now of more significance in the programme. Figure 15 shows that almost one in six of the respondents had attended an online course.

Four-year trend

Figure 15 Online course participation

There are no comparable data for 2010.

Yes 349 No 1,816

20

www.tuc.org.uk


3 Why go online? We examined the reasons why a significant number of respondents were choosing an online course. As Figure 16 shows, the need for flexibility in course arrangements is the dominant reason given, perhaps unsurprisingly given the working patterns analysis above. Lack of availability of courses locally, difficulties in getting release and a disability were also significant reasons. Other comments written in included attendance at a blended learning course, a desire to 'try it out', and the convenience of online learning. I have a disability

Figure 16 Online motivation

Four-year trend

Prefer to learn online

There are no comparable data for 2010.

Cannot get release for a course Classroom course not available Need flexibility in times 0

50

100

150

200

Release for courses How had the reps gained release to attend their course? Figure 17 analyses the responses. The great majority were released with pay by their employer for at least part of the time, with a small number reporting use of holiday and unpaid time. Under 'other', respondents wrote in use of rest days, shift swaps, online courses and changed rotas. I used some holiday

Figure 17 Release for courses

Four-year trend

I used some unpaid time

There are no comparable data for 2010.

Employer released me with pay Other 0

21

500

Still making a diďŹ&#x20AC;erence

1,000 1,500 2,000


case study

ConďŹ dence building Talking to members, Sila discovered that they were not confident in completing CVs needed for a work reorganisation, and that their children also were not confident in applying for jobs after leaving school. Sila contacted an organisation specialising in CV writing and with the help of her ULR contacts set up sessions in the office. The sessions were supported by management and proved highly popular, attracting 60â&#x20AC;&#x201C;70 people over three sessions. Morale was boosted. Sila believes education empowers workers, and that the unions are vital for helping staff keep their jobs and find new jobs and promotion. She wants to get more staff interested in learning and make sure it is open to all and not just the few.

22

www.tuc.org.uk


3 Value of TUC Education We asked respondents to say how far they agreed or disagreed with a number of statements: A B C D E F

TUC Education is essential to help me do my union job I have been able to apply lessons from the TUC courses to my union work I learned more than I expected to from the courses TUC courses are too academic I didn't get the chance on the course to discuss my workplace situation I would not recommend TUC courses to other reps

Figure 18 shows that the strongest view is disagreement that they would not recommend the courses, followed closely by the view that TUC courses are essential to help me do my union job. There is also clear endorsement that they have been able to apply the lessons at work, even though, as we have seen, many of the respondents were recently elected and had attended a course only in recent months. Many agreed strongly that they learned more than they expected to from the courses. Most people rejected the idea that the courses were too academic, with few taking the opposite view.

A

Figure 18 Value of TUC Education disagree strongly agree strongly

B

Four-year trend

C

The results for this topic are broadly comparable with 2010.

D E F 2,000 1,000

23

0

1,000 2,000

Still making a diďŹ&#x20AC;erence


3 Importance of skills As in 2010, we asked the reps to rate the importance of a series of practical skills to do their job, with the addition of a further category â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 'using the internet and email'. Figure 19 shows the analysis. There is strong or partial support for all the list of skills, with talking to members, tackling problems, finding information and negotiating with management topping the list. Seven out of ten now believe that the internet and email are essential to the work of a union rep.

2,500

2,000

Figure 19 Importance of skills 1,500

essential some importance

1,000

using a computer

using the internet and email

taking part in a meeting

negotiating with management

finding information

tackling problems

0

talking to members

500

Four-year trend The most noticeable difference from 2010 is the more positive rating given to internet and email, and using computers generally.

24

www.tuc.org.uk


3 How the courses helped Taking the same areas, we asked how far the courses had helped to develop these skills. There is a strong positive reaction to all areas, led by negotiating with management, finding information, talking to members and tackling problems. Using the internet, email and computers are less highly ranked, perhaps reflecting a sporadic use of information and learning technology on the courses. Figure 20 shows the analysis. 1,200

Figure 20 How courses have helped

1,000

800

a great deal partly

600 400

using the internet and email

using a computer

taking part in a meeting

tackling problems

talking to members

finding information

0

negotiating with management

200

Four-year trend Negotiating with management has moved to top ranking in terms of skills developed.

25

Still making a diďŹ&#x20AC;erence


case study

Handling casework Martin works for a white goods manufacturing company in the north-west. He used knowledge from his union reps course to review the strengths and weaknesses of union teams and reallocate tasks according to strengths identified. This led to developing a strategy with other reps for negotiations with management. Reps now take the lead on specific issues, with support from their colleagues. Martin now specialises in one-toone HR cases with union members, frequently on capability and conduct issues. He says he has benefited from the systematic approach to casework gained from the course. He appreciated being asked to do the survey and the follow-up phone call.

26 www.tuc.org.uk


3 Views on qualiďŹ cations TUC courses are integrated into the qualifications and curriculum framework in England. We asked respondents to give their reaction to a number of statements about qualifications: A I have been able to use the qualifications gained on TUC courses for other purposes B Practical relevance is more important than a qualification on a course C Getting a qualification from a TUC course gets me more respect D There's too much paperwork involved in getting the qualification E The TUC should award its own qualifications F Qualifications should only come from independent bodies As Figure 21 shows, there is strongest support for B (practical relevance) and strongest opposition to D (too much paperwork). Other responses are more mixed.

A

Figure 21 Views on qualifications strongly agree

B

Four-year trend

C

There are no comparable data for 2010.

agree D

disagree strongly disagree

E F 1,000

27

500

0

500

Still making a diďŹ&#x20AC;erence

1,000


3 After the course Did the reps continue to network after the course? We asked about a number of possible methods of possible contact, with the results shown in Figure 22. Email is by far the most common method of keeping in contact, followed by occasional meet-ups. Social networks, phone contact and texting are also frequently used. On average 1.7 channels of communication are used

Figure 22 Networking after the course

Four-year trend There are no comparable data for 2010.

Email 1,321 Occasional meet-ups 740 Phone contact 681 Social networks e.g. Facebook 499 Texts 462 Other 194

Campaign awareness Reps were asked to rate their awareness of a number of TUC campaigns. The NHS and the living wage issues top the list, as Figure 23 shows. 2,000

Figure 23 Campaign awareness

Four-year trend There are no comparable data for 2010.

1,500

taken part in heard of

1,000

like to know more

28

www.tuc.org.uk

Austerity uncovered bus tour

Action for rail

A future that works

Fair pay and a living wage

0

Save our NHS

500


Section 4 In their own words We have already looked briefly at how reps rated the practical skills they gained from the courses. Now we look in more detail at how reps benefited, using their own words from written-in comments. The analysis closely follows the issues outlined earlier.

Getting started as a rep For many participants their first TUC course is an essential starting point for knowing their role: A better understanding of what was required of me and how to carry out the tasks correctly. They helped me become a respected and very competent union rep. A better understanding of the role, and a group of people to contact who are in the same boat. Basic understanding of responsibilities, how to interview, record and follow up a case. A knowledge of union reps’ roles and duties, and how to perform them properly, which without training I would not have known. Confidence that I can go into a meeting having guided the member to get the best resolution. A better understanding of what I need to look out for and why it's such an important but less appreciated job. Confidence from practical experiences and the training to carry out my steward duties in a more effective manner. Access to information, and building up a network of colleagues for advice and consultation.

Finding information Knowing where to look for information and who to contact helps to build confidence: I learned where to look for information and the best way to use the information found, who to contact for different issues and it gave me the confidence to speak up when there is a problem. Effective practical knowledge and confidence to deal with management and members’ issues effectively.

00 29

www.tuc.org.uk Still making a difference

4


4 This can be particularly important for new reps: Knowledge â&#x20AC;&#x201C; when I started as a rep I was unaware of the knowledge required but the course helped build my confidence to further enhance my skills. Being better informed is central to building relationships with members and management: Knowledge â&#x20AC;&#x201C; cannot negotiate/persuade/advise without it!

Practical skills and methods Being systematic is a key benefit, adding to first-hand experience: Although there is no substitute for representing members in real-life situations, the reps course gave me confidence and the necessary grounding for approaching the given issue in a systematic way and, importantly, managing members' expectations. Researching and using information effectively is key: The knowledge and skill in research. Analytical assessment and presenting well-thought-out argument. Awareness of existing skills and areas to improve can be important: Confidence in understanding my own skills and where I need to improve this has contributed in dealing with the workplace issues with a lot more confidence. For some, the skills they developed are fundamental: I have learned the skill of time management, how to compile essays, meet deadlines, analyse data, search for information. It has given me the knowledge to carry out a better job when representing members. I discovered that even though I'm dyslexic I could participate with other members of the group with growing confidence.

Meeting management Developing a considered approach to managers that can mitigate problems is a consistent theme: It has helped me to confront management in a fair and reasoned way, which in turn has given management faith in consulting me on various issues before they become a huge problem. Learning how to conduct myself in management meetings and how to constructively argue cases on members' behalf. 30

www.tuc.org.uk


4

A much greater understanding of the business I work in and how to manage issues relating to that. Reps frequently discover that their courses have given them more information than those they are negotiating with: Knowledge of dealing with managers and realising that they have had less training than ourselves. The confidence to prove to management that my issues are not unfounded and safe in the knowledge that I am better qualified to identify such.

Tackling problems A key feature of TUC courses is the systematic way in which handling problems is tackled â&#x20AC;&#x201C; using the Problem-Information-Plan approach. The significance of problem handling is reflected in what the reps said: Made me think about why we do what we do and why it is or isn't appropriate. The practical insight into problems and realistic methods of tackling them. Again, the importance of information and support is crucial: The structure, how to approach situations how to get the relevant information and knowing that support and advice is always available. How to move issues forward and how to find the relevant information to enable the issues to be moved forward.

Learning from others The discovery that 'I am not alone' is a key boost to reps' confidence: Discovering that many people shared the same views as me regarding workersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; rights and the importance of standing up for them in the workplace. Practical exposure to situations. Hearing experiences of reps from other organisations/sectors. Being able to speak to other reps about their experiences was invaluable.

31

Still making a diďŹ&#x20AC;erence


4 For some this goes beyond their immediate role: I have gained a wealth of knowledge that I can share within my workplace and home life. I have gained confidence in myself and have made some great friends. The mix of experience on a course is often a benefit: I felt comfortable. I didn't feel outcast by people who had more experience than myself. I enjoyed this course.

QualiďŹ cations We looked at qualifications earlier in the report. Respect and confidence through gaining qualifications can be important: The academic qualification earns the respect of my peers and enables me to confidently use the knowledge gained in my normal work routine. It is an essential part of learning to gain confidence and be seen to be on an equal footing with management during meetings and negotiations. Respect is given with TUC qualifications. For some the qualifications gained are a life-changing stepping stone: The TUC Certificate Course ... gave me the qualification to go to University where I gained a BSc Honours Degree 1st in Environmental Analysis. They rekindled my taste for learning, and thanks to them I was able to attend a Diploma course at Keele University, and am hoping to start a Masters degree there.

Motivation Motivation developed by the courses is closely linked to the development of confidence: Confidence that reps like me can make a difference at workâ&#x20AC;&#x201C; with managers and in representing union members. Confidence, understanding of rights and a wealth of knowledge that is of an immense help in making me an effective rep. A bit of respect from management and HR, which isn't always easy! Enlightenment, information, encouragement, able to communicate with others of the same ilk.

32

www.tuc.org.uk


Section 5 Still making a diďŹ&#x20AC;erence? Earlier we saw brieďŹ&#x201A;y how respondents for the most part had been able to apply lessons from their courses when back in the workplace and their union. Now we look in more detail at what impact the reps had made as a result of their education, again using their own words.

Recruitment Many reps found new ways of recruiting new members to the union: Holding regular weekly (1-hour) drop in surgeries for any queries and to drive recruitment (for members and management). Recruiting more members, having the correct tools to hand to recruit those members. Recruitment of formerly anti-union people. Working closer and more frequently with management, also better recruitment planning.

Involving members New ways of communicating with members was a frequent theme: Arranging a facility day each month and making myself available for members to come and see me, knowing I have the time to spend with them and deal with their requests/issues. Doing a staff survey that then implemented change. Holding a meeting every term with members before a meeting with management. Colleagues are now kept much more up to date with what the union is doing for them. They now feel they have someone to approach and they will be listened to. My colleagues at work are now better informed about what is going on in the workplace, simply because I know more about what is going on and pass the information on to them. Set up an email address for members to use to raise issues, ask questions, share information. Simple engagement with staff a couple of weeks ahead of site inspection and a separate inspection prior to one done with management.

33

Still making a diďŹ&#x20AC;erence

5


case study

Agenda for change Carol has for two years been the local 'agenda for change' rep' in the NHS and works in community health services. She has helped to achieve better working with management through a format change in the consultative meetings. Although thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a union recognition agreement in community health services, the situation has become more complicated as they are now part of a bigger organisation. JNCC meetings are held in London every six weeks but local JCC meetings also still take place, which feed into these larger meetings. Carol raised questions about how these JCC meetings were run and the staff side then agreed and proposed format changes to the meetings, which were accepted. One key change is that the chair now alternates between the management and the union side, which has made the meetings more of a two-way process rather than being management led. Rotating chairing has also widened the involvement of the different unions as previously most responsibility for them fell to the full-time rep alone. The format change has also resulted in the staff side organising their premeetings better: agendas have become more formal and focused on the main meeting, so the staff side is better prepared and proactive in the meetings with management. Her course gave her a better understanding of the role of a rep, answering the question â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Where do I fit in?â&#x20AC;&#x2122;. The course also went beyond the individual casework and helped give her ideas on the rep role in pre-empting issues, tackling whole-organisation concerns and working with unions across the organisation. 34

www.tuc.org.uk


5 Getting members engaged rather than acting as 'consumers' is also vital for some: Getting more people involved in taking ownership of health and safety problems rather than passing it on to the health and safety rep. Making members feel connected to the body of the organisation. Decoding complex issues can also be significant: I've been able to directly help and advise our members on pension issues, which are complex and frankly baffling to most people. Recognising difficulties members may face is key to the role: More tolerance for members who contact us regarding mental health issues. Challenging remarks by ill-informed work colleagues.

Ways of working Many respondents commented on improvements they had made to the way they carried out their work as a rep. For example, setting priorities: Not to rush things â&#x20AC;&#x201C; read, understand and focus on what's important. Being more thorough and getting the correct piece of guidance from policy before commenting. Or making sure of the facts: I gather evidence, facts and research before charging straight into a project! Knowledge is empowerment. Background research makes a difference. Listening and looking at different points of view was also important for some: I try to anticipate how situations could be interpreted from opposing points of view so as to be better prepared with counter arguments/supporting evidence. I have become more assertive and less aggressive. I have learned to listen more.

35

Still making a diďŹ&#x20AC;erence


5 An improved approach to member casework was frequently mentioned: More clear and concise in how I deal with membersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; problems. My approach to personal casework is firmer and my ability to negotiate with management has improved as a result of the Reps Stage One Course. Production of better case notes when representing members. Being able to understand what the member wants when representing them. The way in which I deal with a member has changed and making sure I understand what they want and managing their expectations. Keeping better records and paperwork also helped: Mostly being more organised, the importance of keeping up to date with paperwork, prioritising activities. When making notes prior to a meeting or during a meeting ensure you capture the exact statements/comments and be precise with your notes.

Teamworking and developing reps Working in a team with other union reps is key to building confidence and getting support in pressurised situations. There were many comments on how improvements had been made to teamworking: Brought together a network of reps from all garages in the company and created mini courses at the begin to educate reps on structures of the union... This makes the sharing of information better and quicker. Last week I organised the office committee in our workplace to ensure the heavy personal case work was more evenly distributed and organised roles and responsibilities to individual reps to ensure accountability. Organising skills that I didn't realise I had and how to get reps working together for the improvement of our members. Pursued senior reps in making changes to how we interact with the company prior to being in a TU senior position myself. Set up a repsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; email account for all reps in our area. Helping new reps get started in their role can be vital: Taking on casework and helping new stewards with their cases. Changes to recruitment process. Induction and training of new reps.

36

www.tuc.org.uk


5 Meeting management Many comments were made about how relationships with managers had changed and improved due to lessons learned on the courses: Better relationship with the management, and more understanding from the management with regards to employees and their needs. Better working with management through consultative meeting format change â&#x20AC;&#x201C; sharing chairing of meetings. Changed management opinion/confidence/respect/trust towards local union reps and committee. Improving consultation and handling potential conflict were key elements: An attempt to meet with management more regularly than before. Using discussions with line managers and employees to try and cut down on grievances that sometimes appear trivial (not to the person concerned of course). This has really worked and I have noticed a difference. Try to liaise more than be confrontational. Ability to de-escalate problems in the workplace by using informal meetings with employee and managers. Employer considered de-recognition. I worked hard to build up a good relationship of good practice and negotiation. Avoided confrontation. Good communication now between [the union] and management. Meeting management once a month to discuss possible problems that may arrive in the future and try to resolve before they happen. More contact with management to resolve issues before formal action is required. Being able to speak with authority because of gaining knowledge and qualifications on the courses was important for some: I am able to speak with managers without feeling that I am wrong or inferior to them. I am respected as an ... authority due to my qualification. When I seek consultation I am immediately given an invitation. I have been able to convey my opinions and not have it thrown back in my face because I have a better understanding of the issues or concerns. Knowledge is power as quite often management and human resources are not aware of changes.

37

Still making a diďŹ&#x20AC;erence


5 Lower management seem to respect you more now that you have actual knowledge about the union. They talk to me more about situations and members approach you first with problems instead of contacting branch first. Management take more notice because you know what you talking about. With new systems coming in I’ve found management value my input, a lot due to the fact I attend TUC courses.

Negotiations and agreements Representing members and working for fairness at work are central to the courses and to the reps’ role: After 18 months of being a shop steward, I have managed to resolve all issues and problems before it got to grievance. I feel really proud of that, as I have learned how speak to members and managers and build a rapport. Saving people’s jobs, making a difference when these people and their families are at low point in their lives. They need someone on their side who comes from their background. Successfully sought redress for a member who was unfairly disciplined for sick absence. Enhanced my negotiating skills and I now engage in a lot more representation work. There were many examples of initiating negotiations on new areas for change in working conditions: Been involved in creating a lone workers policy that could be devolved across the organisation I work for. Encouraged management to introduce a capability policy rather than trying to deal with capability issues under the disciplinary policy. Environment course has given me confidence to re-start green discussion at work that had lapsed/stopped. I have made local management buy into and change working practices not only for the employees’ benefit but also for the management (winwin). The company has recognised and given a more active role to the union on matters such as health and safety and workplace relations between the union and managers.

38

www.tuc.org.uk


case study

Encouraging new reps Tony is a delivery man for a supermarket in a rural area and has been a union rep for two years. He is currently mentoring two new representatives and runs role play sessions with them on how to recruit new members. He promotes TUC courses and encourages other reps to attend them. â&#x20AC;&#x153;TUC courses cover issues in depth and it is helpful to meet representatives from other work environments so that you can learn how to react in different circumstances.â&#x20AC;? He plans to attend the Stores Director Forum in the region, where he can meet other representatives as well as management. For the future he is interested in becoming an area organiser.

39

Still making a diďŹ&#x20AC;erence


5 Used family-friendly policy to support an argument for part-time work for a colleague. We have gained recognition (and) negotiated the living wage.

Improving union organisation Some of the changes reported as a result of attending TUC courses were about how the union was organised to better represent members: Changing constitution of branch to reflect updated issues. Have been the first-ever workplace rep in our service so for first time colleagues have had support from somebody who has in-depth knowledge of our service. I am arranging for historic on-paper agreements to be scanned and saved electronically for future accessibility and reliance. I am in the process of reorganising my branch to make it more accessible to members on shift work. I was the sole safety rep in my branch and after Stage 2 H+S I set about recruiting and now have 21 across Devon. Set up a branch negotiating committee of four key activists with delegated authority from branch committee, which meets weekly, so that we can be more flexible and proactive. [promoted] young workers awareness.

Workplace skills development As we have seen from their profile, a large number of respondents were union learning representatives. Working with other union reps they reported a series of initiatives to develop workplace training and skills development: Went ahead and undertook a survey and set up the courses with most demand. The employer was happy to go along with this and garner the credit for releasing staff to attend. I helped set up a learning centre, and implemented a fifty-fifty agreement for learners â&#x20AC;&#x201C; an hour of their time and an hour of the company's time for learning. Am able to recruit members to learning opportunities based on my own experiences, particularly in terms of allaying anxieties about what courses entail. Helping colleagues with literacy/using English in the workplace.

40

www.tuc.org.uk


5 Getting a Learning Agreement approved and introduced. I am able to navigate my way around the basics of computing without consistently badgering colleagues for assistance. I did a learning survey and arranged and attended a level 2 NVQ IT Apprenticeship along with 20 other union members. I went on to train to deliver Functional Skills Courses (English, maths and ICT) as I was really unaware of the scale of the problems people faced and how many had low-level ability and required support. Planning and delivering a Learning at Work Day. Enabling members to achieve accredited learning. Prepared and delivered 'moving on' training to colleagues who were being made redundant. Set up five learning courses in English, IT, mathematics and sign language. Telling the works committee at ... to tell our management that we need craft apprentices. And we got six.

Improving the working environment Many of the respondents in the study were health and safety representatives. They gave evidence of a long list of improvements they had helped bring about in the working environment: Made an agreement to do with the heating in driversâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; cabs during winter months. I got security lighting put in place by the locker room, I spoke with my manager about handling money procedure, slips trips and falls and she agreed it was necessary. Gas ovens that were fuming into the work area have now been sorted. The work area is a lot safer now that segregated walkways have been introduced so that forklift trucks and pedestrians no longer mix. Conducted a stress survey. Fitted safety chains to open pits. I negotiated a portacabin for my members to shelter in out of the rain and the cold. Manual handling issues surrounding how we align patients for their treatment have been accepted as a problem area. Extra manual handling aids have been purchased to help. 41

Still making a diďŹ&#x20AC;erence


5 Members talk freely about safety, THEY make the difference in the workplace. I feel I have given them confidence to speak out. I promote company safety initiatives and I am able to make recommendations for changes. The emergency evacuation procedure on site has been developed as a result of the findings from my Stage Two project. Through TUC health and safety courses I was able to work with the members and management to reduce the total number of accidents from 26 (2009) to 9 (2012) on average per year within the cleansing service. The TUC diploma in health and safety helped me to create a positive safety culture in my department and presently l am doing a health and safety audit in my department. I am presently the health and safety champion in my workplace. Where I work there are always lots of assaults on staff and patients by patients. Prior to the course these were never reported to the police. Now they are and the culprit is either summoned or cautioned and a picture is built up for any further assaults.

Equality issues While some of the respondents specialised in equality issues, all reps are concerned with fair treatment and ending discrimination. Many initiatives were reported: After attending a course on autism I have been able to assist members with extra support. By attending a Cancer In The Workplace course I have been able to use it by giving support to people who may be affected. Currently working with employer to implement a model disability leave agreement. I have helped a fellow employee gain his independence with his disability. We now have a structured approach to dealing with the various equality issues that has benefited our members. Getting a manager to recognise mental health issues as a disability (protected by Equal Act), thereby saving the job of a member threatened with capability action. Have challenged behaviour. I am far less likely to tolerate bullying from work colleagues.

42

www.tuc.org.uk


5 I have been able to help a member who had been bullied for year using my experience and skill learned at my TUC course. Made me more aware of ethnic minorities and assist them in taking leave and making adjustments during their festivals.

Changes in role For some respondents the experience of education led them to seek a change of role: Became branch secretary. Encouraged others to undertake training. During a major conference stood up to talk in front of a crowd. I am now communications officer and I designed a new recruitment campaign poster. [started to provide] a pensions information service that is not provided by our HR department. I went on to become a magistrate, employment tribunal judicial appointee and city & parish councillor.

43

Still making a diďŹ&#x20AC;erence


case study

A changing role Ian has been a health and safety rep for many years and, after attending a Union Reps Stage 1 course, has now started representing members on disciplinary cases. He has gained confidence about negotiating with management from the course He works as an environmental health officer so visits many premises in the Scottish borders. He recently helped a member in a disciplinary case where, after being challenged, management compensated the member for erroneous suspension. He believes that the role of the voluntary health and safety rep is “crucial to successful regulation of health and safety in the UK”. Ian has also increased the role and remit of the workplace health and safety committee. “Encouraging more people to take up a health and safety role is vital.”

44

www.tuc.org.uk


Section 6 Some conclusions and recommendations

• Despite the worsened external environment, union reps continue to apply the lessons of the TUC courses to make positive changes in their workplace and union. The research showed examples of recruitment taking place and recognition by employers being won. • The TUC courses continue to be highly valued, with most participants believing them to be essential to their role. The skills and knowledge developed on the courses closely match the reps' priorities. • The profile of the reps is far from the media stereotype. Two out of five are women and one in six has a disability. Many are working part-time or on a variety of shifts and rotas. There is no evidence from the survey that union reps are an ageing group. • Online courses are growing in popularity, the principal reason being the flexibility they provide. The issue of flexibility in course provision through, for example, blended learning is something that should be examined further. • Information and communication technology has grown in importance for reps. Seven out of ten believe the use of the internet and email is essential, while email is the most frequently used form of post-course networking. A review should be made of how learning technology is used across all TUC courses. • In 2010 we said If the real test of the value of the education programme is that its lessons can be put into practice, then there is emphatic evidence here that TUC Education passes that test. The updated evidence shows that there is no need to revise that view.

00 45

www.tuc.org.uk Still making a difference

6


case study

Joint Learning Partnership Jenny has been a union learning rep for five years. She works in a government agency in Wales. She is working with management to run a Joint Learning Partnership. The partnership is now offering NVQs for 60 staff in business administration and customer service. Her ULR course gave an opportunity to develop concrete skills to plan learning opportunities for members in the agency. She has recruited another ULR to help spread the increasing workload.

46

www.tuc.org.uk


TUC Education Congress House Great Russell Street London WC1B 3LS Tel: 020 7636 4030 www.tuc.org.uk March 2014

All TUC publications may be made available for dyslexic or visually impaired readers, on request, in an agreed electronic format or in accessible formats such as Braille, audiotape and large print, at no extra cost.

Design: wave.coop Print: Newnorth


Still making a difference