Equality reps course
4.00pm Friday and John Hoey was in a buoyant mood. Partly it was the prospect of the long weekend before him. More importantly he and five other northwest Unite members had just completed a five-day Equality reps training course in Liverpool that the Barclays Bank employee was confident would “give everyone the skills needed to tackle workplace equalities issues.”
These are things that John feels passionate about. Visually impaired, he was by no means disappointed at being forced to give up chairing the Barclays equalities and diversity group. This is because it came with the understanding the company now wants anyone on it to receive equalities training.
John was happy to do so and was already looking forward to starting back at work the following Monday and seeking “official accreditation as an Equality rep in order to be able to openly discuss with members their concerns.” He, like the others on the course is already looking ahead - with plans for a company wide equalities day - after being asked to prepare an Action Plan by the course tutor Samantha Firth-Corner.
It’s a relatively new role for Samantha after she was made redundant in the summer, ending more than two decades as a laboratory technician at Arla Foods in Northallerton. What’s certain to stand her in good stead is that, like the vast majority of Unite tutors, she comes to the post with a wealth of union workplace experience.
She’s more than happy to pass it on, and recalls that although her branch elected an Equality Rep to sit on its committee not every member was supportive, saying, “I know how difficult it is to change some members, even the active one’s, attitudes. We examine how best to do this on the course. ”
Aircelle employee David Smith was pleased with what he had learnt during his five days. Over 70% of the 700 plus employees at the Burnley based commercial aircraft engineering company are members of Unite, and early in 2010 he became the first to be elected as an Equality rep. He sees the role as a caring one and had already managed to organise an equalities awareness day.
Now he’s properly trained David, alongside a freshly elected second equality rep, intends working closely with management to promote the issue of equality amongst the workforce. “It’s in the interests of the company to treat everyone equally by, for example, preventing bullying and ensuring people are paid fairly as otherwise they will end up with dissatisfied staff who will constantly be seeking alternative employment” he explains.
“Everyone has learnt a great deal. There’s been a good diversity of workplaces as, in addition to David and my workplaces, there are workers from Liverpool council, the food industry and a plastering company. Despite no legal rights for union equality reps Unite members are electing them and winning agreements with management to get them trained to do the role properly. Long may it continue,” said John Hoey.
The Unite Equality Reps training course lasts five days. Held in learning centres across the country the course looks at why equality matters, understanding discrimination and harassment, unite equality rules, structure and policy, roles and skills, organising your workplace, negotiating, campaigning, listening and communicating, workplace equality policies, actions plans and a quiz. It’s not easy, but you and your workmates will benefit if you get involved.