I worked in the Civil Service for almost 21 years and made the transition to work in education nine years ago. At the time my knowledge of unions, I have to say, was pretty limited and somewhat naïve.
When I moved to work in a high school, I got chatting with colleagues who stressed how important it would be to have some union representation especially when working with young people. They encouraged me to look into the union they were members of which led me to join Community (then Voice).
I felt, as a lone worker, immediately reassured by the highly professional, calm and reliable manner of the representative I spoke to. It may sound cliché but I felt I had a safety blanket, an insurance policy, should the worst happen. Because I work part-time, I was also impressed with the ‘pro rata’ membership fee. I remember reading about all the extra benefits you got from being a union member but still, even then, hoping and believing it’s something I would never need.
I took the attitude which I suppose many people take when they’ve never been in that position. “What if?” is always the phrase that springs to mind. After all, we insure our homes, our cars, even our pets but do we insure our jobs? The very thing which affords us said homes and cars?
Little did I know how invaluable that phone call would be nine years later. Last September, a situation at work led me to reach out to Community and I was assigned the most wonderful, caring and professional representative I could have wished for.
I remember being apprehensive about making that call for fear I was making “something out of nothing” and not taken seriously. At a time when I felt I wasn’t being heard or understood in the workplace, I found in the person I spoke to a calm and caring manner. She listened to my concerns, she reassured me that my feelings were valid and for the first time I felt lifted from the very dark place I was in.
I always felt that I was the kind of person who would be able to deal with any situation but when you are emotionally invested and you are exhausted the support network is invaluable. I know she is there on the end of the phone or an email away. She has literally taken my hand and guided me through what I can only describe as a minefield.
At the time of writing this, my case continues but I am confident that I have the support and expertise in my adviser to guide me through. I can’t thank her and her Community colleagues enough especially as, like most people, they are facing the challenges COVID-19 has delivered.
It’s the best investment I could ever have made and one which I would encourage anyone to make. We never know when that “what if” moment might happen.