I always believed in fair play and equality and opposed racism and sexism – so union values were very close to my own values. When I first started work there wasn’t a union but I tried to start one. When I changed jobs and there was a union, I joined up and wanted to be involved. A more experienced colleague wasn’t able to attend the union conference and I was lucky enough to take their place. One conference and I was hooked! I learned loads, met some great people and made friends for life. I’ve had lots of fun working with like-minded people and made lots of friends – as well as meeting my partner of 30 years!
There’s also a huge set of skills – communications, negotiations, influencing, teamwork, public speaking, campaigning, finance, sales, marketing, law, pensions, inter-personal skills, running meeting, strategy - and the list goes on. Then there’s the sense of achievement – from resolving a problem with a member to making a good agreement with an employer. And I’ve had the opportunity to do international work too – learning about other cultures, getting ideas from the approach others take to common issues and participating in solidarity actions.
The great thing about being a unionist is that it’s all about teamwork – so all the achievements are a joint effort and that makes it hard to say, “I did this.”
I think we have been successful in changing attitudes and getting issues of concern to women firmly on the bargaining agenda – so:
- Flexible working arrangements are a reality for many women and men.
- Blatant sexism has gone from the workplace.
- We have agreed good policies to make the world of work a fairer place.
But there’s still covert sexism – and making those policies a reality is still a big challenge!
I know you probably have a million and one things to do – at work, with the family and so on – but spending a bit of time being active in the union can give you a great sense of empowerment. You feel you really are changing what happens to people at work and you get a heap of skills you can use in all areas of your life. You will make some great friends too – so go on – give it a whirl!