Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 14 August 2013

Successes, failures and stalemates: A week in the life of a trade union rep

Glynn Doherty represents one of the large trade unions working mostly in the public sector. He recently gave the Socialist an insight into a week in his working life.


Not looking forward to today. Three redundancy appeals in a small enterprise - an increasing issue for me lately.

In larger employers, there's more opportunity to galvanise opposition across the workforce. This workforce is small and disparate; only these three face dismissal.

I've explained beforehand the odds are stacked against them. Unless we find a procedural or discriminatory failing, it's unlikely the decision will be overturned.

Three separate appeals, almost six hours. When one woman breaks down as the realisation hits that she is losing her job of almost two decades, I call a respite. In all honesty, I'm close to tears as well.

After each hearing, I'm embarrassed to be thanked by the members for my assistance. They know their hopes are forlorn.

I go home exhausted... But I still have a job tomorrow.


A chance to catch up with paperwork: a compromise agreement I've negotiated; challenging a local authority over a massively underquoted redundancy payout; a few emails to members seeking advice.

After lunch, I meet members in a local depot to get feedback on proposals to introduce annualised hours.

The full time officer of the other union involved doesn't materialise so I run a joint meeting myself.

There's overwhelming rejection without me having to nudge or direct! The workers provide information I can use in negotiations to show the plans won't deliver promised 'savings'.

I stop around at the end of such meetings. Some workers need to chat in private; some are not confident of speaking up in front of dozens of others but have views and ideas. If I run off straightaway, these workers could go home feeling ignored.


I've been running drop-in sessions in town centres, allowing workers to turn up when it suits them.

The sessions are casual - members can discuss work problems or just chat in general about what the union does.

Non-members can attend. Obviously I can't help them with individual problems until they join but with low trade union membership, these are great opportunities to spread the word about collectiveness.

I plan to take 30 minutes setting up the room with posters, newsletters and a projector. But there's two workers waiting for me.

They've got issues to discuss, they don't want leaflets. They're home carers facing split shifts or being refused working patterns which allow them to take their kids to school.

I advise them of their rights and emphasise they will have more success if everyone on the team takes the same stance.

Despite the rush at the beginning, turnout is small and slow. But I'm not frustrated.

I speak to around a dozen workers but that's more than if I'd been stuck in an office. Face-to-face contact is so important.

It also gives me the opportunity to get workers to try and organise their workmates themselves. The best 'recruiters' are not full-time or branch officers but local stewards and workers.

I'm pleased one of those who turned up agrees to become a contact for her area, taking away a batch of application forms.


I travel to help a dismissed worker present her grievance. She's been sacked on the spot without any warnings, letters or hint of a disciplinary process; in anything but the legal sense, unfairly.

But she doesn't have the two years' service needed to take it to an employment tribunal. This is a bosses' charter for hire and fire and why socialists support employment rights from day one of every job.

Within hearings, it's sometimes difficult to prevent members falling into traps laid by the employer. They want to get everything off their chests but this can cause problems. .

The only hope for this member is if the employer has a change of mind - which is highly unlikely - or I try and rescue some form of financial settlement.

The member just wants to slag off her manager and the company - a quite understandable reaction but one that's not going to get her anything more than 20 minutes satisfaction!

I manage to wheedle some previously unknown information out of them and turn it round to our advantage. It's still not an easy hearing. Later she was offered a £2,500 settlement.

Clearly the employer, under no legal obligation, was minded to make an offer to protect their reputation both in the community and with the union. A valuable lesson.

Once again my evening turned to redundancy. Austerity measures in local education authorities means often hidden cutbacks. School budget shortfalls means cuts in jobs or, more often, hours.

Underemployment is as much a problem as unemployment... except that government statistics record only those out of work completely.

Tonight's meeting is at a small rural primary school proposing cuts in teaching assistants' hours.

For one worker it looks like her hours will be cut to a level below the threshold where she's able to claim Working Tax Credit.

If the cuts go through she would be worse off in work than out - this is the reality of so-called benefit scroungers.

Occasions like this are why I support the call for an initial one-day general strike against austerity.

These schoolworkers also recognised the futility of tackling everything on an individual rather than collective basis.


The negotiations following Tuesday's mass meeting. Senior management are surprised at the level of opposition to their plans and they're already prepared to make concessions.

We manage to negotiate at least the introduction of a four-day working week as recompense for a move to more seasonal working.

A couple of hours answering queries on a helpline, then a welcome few pints with a local convenor.

A busy week but not unusually so - successes, failures and stalemates. One thing is absolutely clear in my mind though - without the knowledge and confidence I've obtained through being a Marxist and having the support of the Socialist Party around me, I would have ended all such weeks like this feeling demoralised and unable to provide workers with any alternative to the assaults they face.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 14 August 2013:

Socialist Party campaigns

Zero tolerance for zero-hours!

End zero-hour contracts now!

Socialist Party editorial

A tale of two Britains

Socialist Party news and analysis

Beware a recovery!

Met finally apologise for G20 death

London Olympics legacy - one year on

Football and big business: time to reclaim the game

Socialist Party subs appeal

Them & Us

Socialist Party events

Come to the Socialist Party Summer Camp

Socialist Party NHS campaign

Hunt attacks NHS staff and patients

Save Our Hospital!

Protest at the Tory Conference in Manchester

International socialist news and analysis

Tunisia: Mobilise to bring down the government

South Africa: Limpopo WASP launch

Seattle: Socialist challenge to corporate Democrats

Socialist Party workplace news

Defend the Four: Tribunal compensation award to Unison activists

Postal workers ballot for action

On your bike, Serco

Swansea council pay attacks angers workers

Anti-Bedroom Tax

Winning a reprieve from the bedroom tax

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Building TUSC in Caerphilly

Socialist Party comments and reviews

Reflections and sycophancy: Kinnock versus the socialist Liverpool council

The Mill: A change from the usual TV

Successes, failures and stalemates: A week in the life of a trade union rep


Home   |   The Socialist 14 August 2013   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:

Trade union:

triangleWorkers' anger increases after Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangleConference on state spies and sabotage: who's watching who?

trianglePowerful picture of the Port Talbot steel workers' struggle

triangleTories scrap the NHS pay cap: now fight for real-terms pay rises!

trianglePCS ballots members to send message to government: scrap the pay cap


triangleNorth London hospital workers fight cuts and job losses

triangleStriking back against the sackers' charter at Leeds University

triangleSchools "can't go any further" - stop the cuts: set deficit budgets now

triangleWorkplace news in brief


triangleCollege workers ballot for action in Nottingham

triangleBack the Brum bin strikers!

triangleEducation cuts forced back


triangleNo cuts - hands off King George A&E!

triangleYoung people being strangled by debts

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments


Port Talbot

Powerful picture of the Port Talbot steel workers' struggle


Russian revolution

October 1917 reviews: 'More bright than any heaven'


Theresa May

Theresa May, Frida Kahlo and turning women into wares



Poverty, repression and fightback on the docks


The Socialist

The Socialist Inbox



Shocking insight into Isis



Hugh Hefner's exploitation of women



Women's football - Sampson allegations



The Socialist Inbox



Interview: the "socialist John Le Carré"



Refreshing, anticapitalist - but little pointing a way forward



New documentary asks women how their bodies are sexualised and policed



The Socialist inbox


Che Guevara

Intimate insight into a revolutionary icon



Bosses' pensions robbery

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party out the Tories

triangle11 Oct CWU fights court attempt to stop national strike

triangle11 Oct The fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against...

triangle11 Oct Catalonia: Workers can finish what Puigdemont won't

triangle6 Oct Boeing bust-up threatens thousands of skilled jobs

triangle4 Oct The nasty party turns on itself... but the Tories must be driven out

More ...

triangle19 Oct Waltham Forest Young Socialists: Deaths in police custody

triangle19 Oct Swansea Socialist Party: Spanish revolution 1936-37

triangle19 Oct Cardiff East Socialist Party: Is equality for women possible under capitalism?

triangle19 Oct Wirral Socialist Party: The October 1917 Russian Revolution

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice