I started my first full time job 33 years ago, and one of the first things I did was join the union. For me, over the years, it has always proved to have been a good choice.
In my first job the owners became obsessed with becoming the number one ranked bank, and one of the ways they sought to achieve this was to cut back on staff incentives such as subsidised mortgages and loans as well as on bonuses and pay rises.
The union fought hard to limit the cuts the company made to our remuneration packages, a task that wouldn’t have been impossible for one individual alone to do.
Two years later and Community (UFS, as they were known as then) again fought hard to make sure that when the final salary pension scheme that staff were part of was closed, that we moved onto a defined benefit scheme rather than a less favourable defined contribution scheme.
When this was also eventually closed, the union worked for months to make the company improve their original offer to ensure that they minimised the loss of pension benefits for their members.
Again, this is something that we simply could not have done as individuals. If not for the union I would be seeing literally thousands less in my pension fund each year, which would have meant losing about 70% of the value my pension had the union not forced a change.
I have heard the arguments from some non-union members, questioning why they should join as they get the same benefit as union members as the gains we make apply to everyone not just union members.
The only answer I have is that if everybody thought like that, there would be no union and we would then have to fight alone. Some of these companies are so large, how much of a voice would an individual be able to have?
The union also offers personal support for individual fights and injustices. I work in a role where we provide 24/7 cover pretty much 365/366 days a year. When the EU introduced new rules about holiday pay taking into account overtime and standby pay, I was disappointed to find that my employer would not include standby in the calculation. This felt wrong.
With the help of advice provided from a Community caseworker specialising in employment law, I raised a grievance with the company and found the support they provided during the hearing, held over Teams, invaluable.
The director who was hearing my grievance found in my favour. This win will help not just me, but all other employees who are in the same position. This means that this win potentially applies to at least a dozen other people. Without the help and support of the union and a fellow rep, I’m not sure I’d have been able to win this fight.
It’s very simple – the more members we have, the harder we can fight and the stronger our negotiation position is. We can win these fights, but we can only win them together.