21 Jun 2008

UNISON Organising for Equality

At National Delegate Conference, a motion on Organising was debated which referred to the new Equality Reps Pilot Scheme. UNISON secured funding from the union modernisation fund to enable the development of the workplace equality representatives project. UNISON has always argued for statutory recognition for equality representatives and it is hoped that the success of this project and similar projects in other unions will achieve this.

The pilot project will assess how the role of "Equality Rep" can help branches negotiate around equalities particularly in relation to the public sector duties on disability, race and gender. It is proposed that the work of the Rep will include:
  • working with the Branch Equality Officer to advocate for good equality practices in the workplace

  • raising awareness within the workplace of the work the union and the branch does around equality

  • encouraging the branch to prioritise equality issues

  • signposting members with potential equality related cases to branch stewards.

Equality is a workplace issue and equality is the responsibility of everyone in UNISON. Our members are best represented in workplace issues by our accredited workplace representatives and stewards.

UNISON has produced guidance on self organisation which states that

When members need union representation in a workplace matter, this is usually provided by their elected workplace representative or steward. All union reps should be competent and confident in carrying out their role and be able to deal with all issues of equality and discrimination, while knowing how to access specialist advice when needed.

The equality reps supported by the Branch Equality Officer is intended to be able to provide that specialist advice and if needed they can also seek support from the branch self organised group if there is one in existence.

This is a new and exciting way of organising for equality and comes at a time when UNISON has also introduced the unison equality scheme.

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