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Journey To My First Role As A Trade Union Rep

Madhat of the Month

In this Madhat of the month, we are honoured to have Jai Monaghan, an Equalities Trade Union Rep at Tate Galleries. In this blog, Jai has written an incredibly interesting account on her journey to becoming a Trade Union rep and the benefits of how we should educate others.

She describes her influences and personal stories on reasons why becoming an Equalities Rep is very important.

Journey To My First Role As A Trade Union Rep

By Jai Monaghan, PCS Equalities Rep, Tate Enterprise

Hi my name is Jai, I am a 25 year old, working class, cisgender, white, bisexual, feminist woman. I am currently a Retail Team Manager at Tate Modern and (very) recently been appointed as an Equalities Rep for PCS Union at Tate.

Before talking about my journey to becoming a rep, I thought it would be important to briefly explain what a Trade Union is, and their importance…

What Is A Trade Union?

Trade Unions are simply a group of people working together to improve and protect the lives of workers through collective bargaining, organisation and action. Trade Unions are applied by sector and majority form under the Trade Unions Congress.

Anyone can be a Trade Union member regardless of their race, class, gender or sexuality. 

Unions have had the success of winning many things that a lot of us may take for granted in our working lives. These are things such as:

  • working hours
  • paid annual leave
  • paid parental/maternity leave
  • minimum wages
  • forcing employers to abide by contracts
  • tackling discrimination, and many more.

Trade Unions and Reps keep up to date on laws to make sure that employers and the government are treating workers fairly and respectfully.  

My Decision To Become A Union Rep

I have known about Unions for a while and unfortunately, like many people, have not realised the true benefit and success of Unions or linked our working rights to the correct history.

Due to a lack of education, this translated to a lack of interest for a while. I hate to admit that I only became fully aware towards the end of University and beginning of my working life. 

However, I have always been political. During secondary school I attended a lot of protests in London and at home in Cambridge, fighting against the increased University Fees and cuts to Education.

In sixth-form I studied Government and Politics as one of my subjects, where I learnt about the function of a Union in one of our modules. However, I do not think I fully realised the true benefit, power and importance of them until I became a working woman myself.

Getting younger generations involved and engaged in Unions is a problem that is faced across the board because of our current government. There is a lack of Union teaching at schools, unless we choose to do this as a subject.

When you start a new job, management is often hesitant to let you know about the unions because they understand the power we can have over injustice in the workplace.

It is our job as Union Reps to make our presence and influence known. We must support colleagues against injustice and ensure fair, equal and safe workplace cultures.

How My Family And Upbringing Influenced Me

My Dad has always been a big positive influence, he is currently a Chair for UCU at Cambridge Regional College and has been for the last 10 years. He is very (left wing) politically active and growing up, has always been an activist, attending protests and events.

For the last 3 years, I have attended the Tolpuddle Martys Festival with my Dad, his wife and family. The festival celebrates Unions, involving music, talks, and a rally on the last day. It is a joy and inspiration to come to this festival. To be around some amazing people, that are doing so much to consistently and passionately fight for change in our system/government.   

My Mum is also a big inspiration; she is a very strong independent, confident and sociable woman. This has had a big influence on my own personality, giving myself the confidence to work with people and inspire change.  My parents have always fully supported me in everything I have done and I am really grateful for that. 

If I had not studied Government and Politics at A-Level or have an inspiring politically active Dad, I would not have really known much about Unions (much alike a lot of my peers). As a young person, I am lucky enough to have had great influences and support in my life. Due to this I feel a responsibility to get other younger people involved and active in Unions.

As mentioned, I identify as a working class, cisgender, white bisexual woman. Understanding my privileges as a white cisgender woman. I have also experienced prejudice due to my sexuality, gender or class. This made me understand inequality and empathise with other minorities and oppressed people, motivating me to fight as a strong ally for others. 

Significance Of Addressing Diversity In A Workplace

I have been a ‘Diversity Champion’ in my workplace for about a year. This is a group that meets to discuss and implement ways we can make our workplace a diverse and inclusive place to be.

This included creating educational book displays and timetables of activities in the Tate Shops. All of these activities related to important dates such as Black History Month, Pride and Mental Health Awareness.

Being involved in this work and feeling the importance and influence of it, encouraged me to become an Equality Rep. This means I can attend further  training courses and develop my skills. I can also gain more formal influence within the structures of industrial relations between my employer and the unions to effect real change.

I want to be able to stand up for injustice, empower my workforce and create an inclusive culture. A culture where we are all respectfully learning, progressing and developing as the world changes.

Taking The Next Step

The current imbalance of power within this patriarchal society lights a fire in me to fight against this inequality anyway I can. Making and creating space for minorities is important and necessary for the world to develop and progress.

I feel that being a Trade Union Rep, even though it may seem small, it is contributing to something bigger. Unions have changed the world for working people and I feel extremely excited and grateful to have the opportunity to be part of this. 

I urge everyone to join and support their local Trade Union and have listed some further resources below. 

http://www.unionhistory.info/index.php

https://www.tuc.org.uk/education-app

https://www.tuc.org.uk/

https://www.tuc.org.uk/about-unions/find-union-you

https://www.pcs.org.uk/what-have-the-unions-ever-done-for-us

If you are also interested also becoming a PCS Union Advocate, please watch this video:

Become a PCS Union Advocate 2018

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