The responsibilities of a representative fall into four main areas, none of which should be too time-consuming.
- Providing information to other members in the workplace and raising the profile of Voice up by updating the staff room notice board with posters and newsletters.
- Recruiting new members into membership - introducing yourself to new members of staff and asking them to join.
- Acting as a communication link between Voice and other members in your workplace.
- Directing members in your workplace to sources of information and advice within Voice.
- Keeping all Voice members up-to-date with any consultation that is taking place in your workplace.
- Attending meetings in your workplace on behalf of Voice and your union colleagues.
- Reporting back to Voice the progress on any consultations.
If necessary, Voice will write to the head teacher/manager to ensure that the representative is kept fully informed of meetings.
(Some duties above may already be performed by the Voice Workplace Contact. However, if there is no Voice Workplace Contact you may feel it appropriate to carry out these duties or enrol the assistance of another Voice member.)
When you become a Workplace Representative you will be registered as such on our membership database so that we can ensure that you receive all the information you’ll need. Other local representatives will also be informed of your new role. You will receive a ‘Your Voice Toolkit’ which will include:
- a letter to your head teacher/principal informing them of your appointment as the Voice workplace contact;
- Voice headers, posters and other materials for your noticeboard;
- information on the Voice Recruitment Scheme Volume and recruitment materials;
- hints and tips on recruiting;
- contact information on other Voice representatives within your area and region;
- information on Professional Officers at head office and their specialisms;
- a data protection form for you to sign to allow you to have access to basic contact information on the Voice members in your workplace.
Federation and Branch Meetings
If there is a Federation or Branch in your area try to ensure that your workplace is represented at these meetings. These meetings give you an opportunity to find out/discuss exactly what is happening
in the education scene and keep Voice informed about your current needs and opinions. Local meetings are important and the exchange of information at them is vital.
The Workplace Representative and the Head Teacher, Principal or Officer in Charge
Your head teacher, principal or officer in charge may approach you to discuss some aspect of current Voice policy or to seek information about the union’s attitude to some problem which has an effect on your establishment. If you are asked for information and you do not have a ready answer, you will not lose face by saying so. Please contact Voice head office and ask for the information that you need.
In the event of industrial action being taken by another union, ensure that the head teacher, principal or officer in charge is informed of Voice’s advice to its members. This is available on the Voice Website or by contacting Derby head office.
You should not represent members on disciplinary or grievance issues if you have not been fully trained and accredited. Please contact your Regional Officer or head office.
If an individual member colleague has a problem, they may seek your assistance and, as the Workplace Representative, you are often the person best able to help. You know the workplace, you know the member and you may be able to give advice quickly. All colleagues are entitled to have a ‘friend’ present at any meeting relating to dispute, grievance or disciplinary action. If you act as the ‘friend’, your main role is that of witness and as such it is often useful to make notes. The head teacher, principal or officer in charge may also have a witness present, who may also be taking notes.
You may agree to act as a ‘friend’ to a member colleague, in which case please make sure that your Regional Officer, local Field Officer, or head office is informed, preferably beforehand, or you may decide to ask for help from your Regional Officer, Field Officer, or head office. Where a case is serious, or threatens to become so, it is best for the Regional Officer, Field Officer or a member from head office is present. If they are not able to attend, s/he will advise you as to the best course of action.
If you are yourself involved with a problem, take another member with you, or ask your Regional Officer.
Building Relationships: Attending Meetings with Management
Always keep a careful record of what you do and say in any meetings you attend on behalf of Voice. If required, hold a meeting of members to report back to them. When dealing with a member’s problem, always:
- listen carefully;
- ask questions to clarify issues;
- let them know what happens next;
- consider the seriousness of the issue and if need be, seek assistance.
Working with other Union Representatives
Liaise with other union representatives in your workplace. It can sometimes add more force to the argument if all unions are working together on issues affecting all staff in your workplace. If appropriate, hold a joint union meeting and take the issue to management collectively.
To help you feel more confident in your role, Voice offers training for all volunteers. Where possible, ensure you take advantage of this training. Facility time should be available from your workplace to cover this training.