With the shop steward and branch officer elections soon to take place, this is a good time to explain how the branch works and to encourage you to consider becoming a steward.
The shop steward is your team mate, your first point of call when you require support, and the backbone of the branch. Collectively shop stewards operate across directorates and together make up the Directorate stewards committee. Stewards committees meet every 4-6 weeks to discuss issues relevant to their directorate, plan for member’s shop meetings, agreeing issues to take to management etc.
Stewards receive training, get support from more experienced activists and get a couple hours per week to cover their duties.
There is also a system of Health and Safety Reps with many stewards carrying out both roles.
At the first shop stewards committee of the year the stewards elect their Convenor. The convenor is in effect the lead shop steward. The convenor gets a larger amount of time to do their union duties – they convene the stewards committee, support the shop stewards and take on representations for members that need support – something experienced shop stewards also do. Directorate stewards meet with management regularly to raise issues on your behalf.
There are a number of branch officer positions whose role is to represent the membership across the Council – the roles include Branch Chair, Branch Secretary, Treasurer, Health and Safety Officer and Publicity Officer. You can see all the branch officer positions and who currently holds the positions here http://www.camdenunison.org.uk. Branch Officers meet with Senior Management for consultation and negotiating purposes.
The main decision making body of the branch (between all members meetings) is the Branch Committee which meets every 4-6 weeks. The branch committee is made up of branch officers, representatives from the shop stewards committees, and representatives of self-organised groups. The branch committee has an overview of the work of the branch, initiates campaigns, agrees donations and other ways to show solidarity with other groups of workers and campaigns. The branch committee gives direction to our activities.
In addition to representing members directly employed by the Council, we also represent workers that work on outsourced, privatised contracts such as NSL who have the parking contract, Caterlink where we are currently campaigning for the London Living Wage among school meal workers and Greenwich Leisure who have the leisure centre contract.
Our Branch Office is not far from 5PS – on the other side of St Pancras Station at 59 Phoenix Road, Brill Place, NW1 1ES. Branch work is supported by three workers employed by us – a Branch Office Assistant, Branch Office Manager and Branch Office Organiser.
Perhaps more than ever, with another round of cuts looming, the work of the branch becomes more important and with the strength of the branch depending on a high density of membership and a strong layer of activists this is the time to consider being a Shop steward.
Interested? Contact the branch office or a local rep – remember you will receive training and be supported all the way.
Barry Walden, Branch Chair (job-share)
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