Barber praises grass roots activists, saying: “Millions of workers up and down the country have benefited from the fantastic work done by union reps in thousands of branches.”
The TUC today announced the winners of the prestigious ‘Reps of the Year Awards’.
The awards recognise the outstanding achievement of union reps in representing women and young workers, learning at work, union organising and improving health and safety conditions in the workplace.
The winners received their awards from TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber at the TUC’s headquarters in Congress House.
The 2011 winners are:
- Congress Award for Youth – Nick Parker, PCS (from Lincoln)
- Learning Rep Award – Jonathan Waterhouse, USDAW (from Gorton, Manchester)
- Organising Award – Anas Ghaffar, USDAW (from Slough, Berkshire)
- Safety Rep Award – Clifford Mayor, UCATT (from Wigan)
- Women’s Gold Badge – Evelyn Martin, GMB (from Stoke Newington, London)
Commenting on the awards TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “Millions of workers up and down the country have benefited from the fantastic work done by union reps in thousands of branches.
“These reps put in a lot of time, hard work and effort to help their colleagues. I am delighted that their achievements have been recognised at Congress and they fully deserve the applause they receive from delegates.”
Congress Award for Youth
The recipient of this year’s Congress Award for Youth – Lincoln activist Nick Parker who works in the Jobcentre Plus call centre in the city – reflects the continuing good work in PCS.
Nick quickly became active in the union after starting work for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) three years ago, and he ran a campaign in Jobcentre Plus call centres to extend rights to call centre workers.
Nick has also helped transform Lincoln and District Trades Council into an outward-looking, relevant, campaigning organisation since getting involved. In the past year alone, the Trades Council has held Lincoln’s first May Day celebration in 20 years, organised political and financial support for striking postal workers, and marched in support of the public sector pensions strike in June.
Nick has also been one of the mainstays of the local campaign against the far right, helping to organise protest marches and supporting anti-racist gigs to promote the unifying message ‘Unite for jobs and homes against racism.’
Learning Rep Award
Like a lot of people growing up in the bleakly derived area of Gorton in Manchester during the Thatcher era, Jonathan Waterhouse didn’t get very much out of school and left without English and maths qualifications. Yet that negative experience of education made him the ideal candidate to become union learning rep (ULR) co-ordinator when USDAW opened an on-site learning centre at Manchester McVitie’s factory in 2008.
Jonathan gained literacy and numeracy qualifications after training as a ULR, partly to fill in the gaps left by his own education and because he’s a firm believer in leading by example.
Jonathan and his nine fellow ULRs have encouraged more than 150 of their co-workers to start using the Go ON suite of online basics provided through UK Online, and he has run the Reading Agency’s Six Book Challenge for three years in a row. In addition, he has established an NVQ programme at the centre that has helped 100 colleagues achieve their first full Level 2 qualifications.
Promoting learning has helped grow the union on-site and Jonathan is proud of the way learning has changed from being an added extra to becoming part and parcel of everyday life in the factory.
Four years ago, when he started work at one of Tesco’s stores in Slough, Berkshire, Anas Ghaffar hadn’t even heard of USDAW. But now, after recruiting 300 members in six months, he’s won the Organising Award at this year’s Congress.
Anas originally decided to join the union when he was harassed by a co-worker soon after he started in his new job. Since becoming an USDAW rep in 2008, Anas has managed to boost people’s awareness of the union and what it can do for them. In addition, he’s won the respect of his colleagues, convincing people who had let their membership lapse to re-join, signing up people who had always steered clear, and reaching out to new starters to spread the word.
Anas is a graduate of USDAW’s Organising Academy, which offers activists a six-month secondment to one of the union’s seven divisions, where they improve their organising skills with the help of a full-time officer who acts as their coach. He helps run what’s now become a 12-strong team of store reps, and he has even represented a duty manager from a nearby store who was facing a gross misconduct charge – and won the case.
Safety Rep Award
When UCATT rep Cliff Mayor began work at the old Ford factory in Wigan, the 17-year-old quickly spotted how raising health and safety issues on the shopfloor could easily get union members labelled troublemakers.
As he progressed through his 20s, he began to wonder if it was the way they approached the issues couldn’t be improved, and his suspicions proved correct when he got the chance to put his approach into practice.
When the Ford factory closed 10 years ago, Cliff began working for a string of service providers for the Highways Agency – McAlpine, Amey Mouchel and now A-one+, where he’s become a network steward.
Cliff might be mild-mannered, but his patience is tested when people try to wriggle out of work by making unfounded claims about health and safety.
Cliff’s proudest of the system he launched 18 months ago to encourage more people to raise health and safety issues. Now anyone can flag up concerns in a dedicated folder, noting whether they’ve discussed them with fellow members or supervisors and if they’re happy with any proposed solutions. People can put their name to an entry or do it anonymously – a solution will be found either way.
Women’s Gold Badge
GMB member Evelyn Martin has dedicated her whole working life to looking after others – as a mother, a care worker, a union activist, and member of her church.
Born and raised in the West Indies, Evelyn arrived in London in the 1960s, at a time when widespread racism made it even more difficult for people adjusting to their new lives at the heart of the old empire.
When Evelyn began working for the London Borough of Islington in 1973, she’d never heard of unions, but once she joined the GMB she was persuaded to become a shop steward in the home help department.
Evelyn remains active to this day, sitting on a number of committees for the GMB, the Southern and Eastern Region of the TUC and the TUC itself. She also helps the homeless through her church in Stoke Newington, cooking them hot meals, finding them clothes and blankets – and listening to their stories.
Evelyn may be 66 years old, but she still wakes every morning at 6am to spend 90 minutes in the nearby leisure centre before she goes to work, looking after people with complex needs in their homes.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.