In the first of three articles, Paul Moloney, the SoR’s industrial relations manager, takes a look at the role of the local rep and explains why reps are vital in the workplace.
Local representatives are an integral part of the Society of Radiographers’ structure, performing an essential role in ensuring members get the right representation and support whenever it is needed.
HOW MANY SOR REPS ARE THERE?
The SoR has more than 1200 members acting as local reps, meaning around one in every 25 members has agreed to take on the role.
It is recognised across the organisation that the role of the local rep is fundamental to the effectiveness of the SoR. Members, for example, consistently value the role and the annual Rep of the Year Awards show the depth of talent there is among reps across the union.
Reps are an integral part of the SoR’s current strategic plan which aims to include an accredited rep in every workplace in the UK.
As a result of this, the team of industrial and national officers regularly monitor the coverage of reps.
At present about 85% of workplaces with more than 20 members have at least one rep in place. This strategic aim, which was driven by UK Council, was further endorsed through unanimous support for a motion at the 2016 Annual Delegates Conference (ADC) which reinforced the strategic aim.
This level of coverage remains the envy of many organisations, and means that incredibly 4% of our members are prepared to stand up on behalf of their colleagues.
UK Council, through their strategy and members through the ADC, are however recognising that members who work in places where there is no rep are simply not getting the full value from their SoR membership.
Members are therefore always encouraged to put their name forward, particularly where there isn’t a rep so they can take on the roles and ensure their colleagues are properly supported in the workplace.
Members are welcome to share the load by job sharing a reps position if that helps to encourage volunteers.
WHAT DO REPS DO?
Together, SoR reps cover three main areas – industrial relations, health and safety and learning. All three types play a huge part in delivering representation and support to members, ensuring that problems at work are often resolved quickly and informally without the need for formal procedures to be used.
Although we mainly think of the NHS, we do have some reps elsewhere who sit on company consultative committees and support members.
Each type of rep covers different areas, for example, the industrial relations representatives have responsibility for assisting members with grievance or disciplinary matters, representing SoR members on local staff side committees and negotiating on issues such as management of change proposals, new rotas and extended working.
Health and Safety reps, as the name suggests, ensure workplaces are safe and that working conditions are healthy for members and patients, and union learning reps cover areas such as CPD, often organising talks and events to help members learn about new practices and to evidence their CPD when required to by using CPD Now.
IS THERE ANY TRAINING?
Training of local reps is an essential part of what the SoR offers.
The SoR’s training package for local reps is the envy of many across the trade union movement with newly elected reps being invited within a few months of being elected to attend the initial residential training course in the Midlands.
This is usually supplemented by ongoing training delivered in each region or country.
Reps are also invited to attend a Stage Two reps course to further enhance their skills and build on the experience they will already have gained since becoming a rep.
The training is regularly monitored and updated to reflect the very latest developments and also to use feedback from participants to ensure the training meets the need of reps.
It is consistently popular as is the feedback. The recently introduced Stage Two courses have proved so popular that there are now two per year with Stage One courses increased to five.
WHAT DO SOR REPS ACHIEVE?
Reps can and do achieve a great deal. They ensure members are treated fairly and have a voice when consultation on changing workplace practice is proposed. They can ensure members have confidence to raise grievances, stand up to bullying and be prepared to raise professional concerns on behalf of patient safety, if necessary.
One accredited rep recently helped to win an appeal on behalf of a member who had been dismissed unfairly.
Thanks to their diligence, they were able to prove this and the member who was being represented was reinstated with all benefits.
Reps would not normally be expected to handle complex issues like this, but in this instance it was agreed with the regional officer who paid tribute to the rep’s professionalism and manner in which he/she(?) approached the case.
As Ged Summers – the Rep of the Year for 2015 – explains: “I think that the high points of undertaking this role are often the ones that no one will be aware of except the member who you’ve supported through a specific event in their career”.
Ged urges anyone who is considering the role to take the plunge: “If anyone is thinking of becoming a rep I would thoroughly recommend that they take up the opportunity. It will help you become a better practitioner.
"You will become more aware of the issues that can impact on your practice and role and, more importantly, how to deal with them”.
So if you are interested, particularly if you work somewhere that does not currently have a rep, why not have a go?
MORE INFO FOR STUDENTS
To find out more about how students can get support from SoR reps, visit the Student Zone of the SoR website.