AS a union rep, you probably get to hear about all the ups and downs of life in your school or workplace. On top of this, you’re probably really busy with work yourself. But there are many reasons why getting together with your union colleagues is a great idea.
- It’s a chance to give every National Education Union (NEU) member a space to talk about what’s going on, even if they’re not someone who usually speaks up.
- It’s a place where you can make decisions together and give your members a say in a plan of action.
- It sends a positive message that this is a union workplace and encourages non-members to be part of the union.
How do you go about organising a meeting?
If it’s not an emergency issue, plan your meeting a couple of weeks in advance. The best time in schools is mostly at the end of the day – but you will know what the best time is for your members. If you find people don’t attend, don’t give up! You can always test out different times or even do a short survey of members on what times and subjects they want to see.
Advertise Make sure you advertise your meeting– cut out the poster template on the right-hand page, add yor own details, then photocopy for your union noticeboard. But don’t just stick up a poster – speak to your members to remind them or ask colleagues you can rely on to help drum up support.
Pick your subject
Always have an issue that your members care about as the main subject of the meeting and let them know it will be on the agenda. But make sure you are flexible if they all want to talk about something else. Help members feel it’s their meeting.
So, you’ve got an interesting issue, you’ve picked your date and let everyone know the meeting is happening. What else do you need to prepare? Make sure you’ve checked your membership list so you know who’s entitled to be at a union meeting. It’s a good time to check everyone that you think is a member, actually is.
If you work in a bigger school or workplace and it’s difficult to communicate quickly with everyone, why not prepare a sign-in sheet to collect their contact details? Make sure you let people know you will only use their information to contact them about issues at work, and Check if there are any updates from national NEU campaigns or any CPD courses you may want to let members know about – there’s always lots of information on the website.
Use the opportunity to remind your members that they are part of the largest education union in the UK. You can order recruitment forms, leaflets and some freebies to give out. DON’T use it for anything else!
Holding campaign or urgent workplace meetings
Don’t just hold meetings that you’ve planned in advance. If you have an issue that you are raising with your head or other management then you can hold a meeting to report back. Members will want to attend to hear the first-hand news and you won’t have to tell the same story over and over again. Make sure that, at the end of the meeting, you always discuss what you’re going to do next and take a decision. Don’t be afraid of taking a vote but if you want to just come to a consensus, then that’s ok. But make sure you come out of the meeting confident that your members have had their say and know what decisions have been made
If the meeting decides on a plan of activity around a specific issue that’s bothering people, why not ask who will help you out and take on specific tasks? Maybe someone will agree to speak to non-members? Another may help with a bit of research.
The best union meetings are discussions rather than one-sided briefings. Meetings are as much an opportunity for members to tell you about their issues as they are for you to share news. Make sure you encourage participation and try and keep a relaxed atmosphere so everyone feels they can speak.
Always remember – as a representative of a recognised trade union you are entitled to meet your members to talk about issues to do with their work. Informing the head or other management is good practice, but you do not need permission.
And why not use the meetings as a reason to approach non-members? Ask if they’d like to come along to have their say, keep some membership forms handy as if they want to join the meeting, all they need to do is fill in a form and hand it over to you.
Finally, don’t worry about having to say you don’t know the answer. You don’t need to have an encyclopaedic knowledge and sometimes members can ask some obscure questions. After the meeting you can always contact your branch secretary or the AdviceLine to get the help you need.