Friday, 30 October 2009
The Future for Equality Reps?
I attended a lively, packed event yesterday. As project manager of the GFTU's union modernisation fund (UMF) equality reps project I delivered, with Judith Jackson, GFTU Head of Educational Services) (on left of picture) a project dissemination event in Telford.
Delegates listened to presentations from project partners including the Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and GFTU affiliate union CONNECT.
In addition there were two excellent presentations from equality reps trained as part of the project. Paul Greenwood, a UNITE equality rep, thanked the GFTU for the opportunity to become an equality rep, whilst James Stribley (on right of picture top left) a GMB regional convenor for the GMB in Yorkshire, delivered a presentation jointly with Majid Hussain (Inclusion & Diversity Manager - REMPLOY) (left of James in picture) on a joint strategy to embed increased activity around equalities across all activity within the company.
A particularly interesting aspect of the day was a discussion hosted by the conference chair Joe Marino (BFAWU General Secretary and current GFTU President) on the challenges facing equality reps.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of delegates who contributed cited the disappointment of not having statutory rights to paid time off to carry out their role. One delegate went as far to comment that he felt he had to 'lie and cover up' his equality rep role under the guise of his existing shop steward's role by saying that he was undertaking 'union business'.
Whilst this discussion did not in any way undermine the highly positive way in which the conference proceeded and concluded it did leave me, as project manager, wondering what future equality reps would have.
Will reps, without statutory rights, be sustained through the role being 'dropped onto' the back of the steward, ULR, safety rep role - as it clearly the case that equality strands run through these role also, or will interest drop off over time as these reps concentrate on primary aspects of their core role?
As always, comments welcome.