I've been employed part-time for 7 months now, on a relief basis, and am pondering joining a union because of various problems I've had...
Basically, the school and council seem to say one thing and do another - for example, there's this whole grading thing which I half-understand (your job description gets evaluated which puts you on a particular rate) - yet I've never been given any job description, or told how my pay rate is worked out. I suspect they're not exactly following their own procedures.
Also, I worked loads of hours over the summer, and was told when I asked that as a relief worker I didn't get any overtime pay, just plain rate. Got my written terms and conditions yesterday, 5 months later than should be supplied under law, and found that "hours over the standard working week (37 hours) should be worked at time and a half" and I can't find anything saying relief workers don't get this. Is it possible to get backpay off your employer, even if it was so long ago?
However, I don't know that the unions have much strength in our school - I've never heard anything from them, it's not like they're proactive. The staff I know who are unionised are in UNISON - though when they had a strike last summer all of 2 (out of 20-30) staff went out. So I'm not entirely convinced that they have enough "muscle" as it were to actually make anything change?! The other issue is that because my hours are not fixed, they could easily turn around and tell me to shove off, and I'd have no recourse.
I suppose this is turning into a mini-rant! I would appreciate any advice people could offer on the matters.
I just left UNISON because they were so bad in our area.
I joined the GMB Home
The GMB were cheaper and the rep is always on hand.
The area UNISON rep seemed to be working more for the interests of the employer than he did for it's members. I recall UNISON would not help any new members for a probationary time, although I understand that they do a great deal of work at a national level.
Ultimately you should join whoever you feel is going to give you the most support.
btw, schools are notoriously bad at adhering to employment legislation. The managers are just ex-teachers, so they probably don't understand their obligations.
I cannot recommend strongly enough that you join a union. As CyberNerd points out, the service from any particular union depends a lot on the local branch/rep. However, when it comes to obeying employment conditions, the 'strength' of any particular union in your school should be irrelevant. If there is a legal obligation there, then the union can bring legal action to enforce that even if there is only one unionised employee in the organisation.
Thanks for your replies. The arguments do indeed sound pretty strong. The scary thing is it's the county's HR department which seems to be making many of the cockups - I pointed out quite bluntly that I was supposed to be given a written statement of the conditions of employment within two months - at the outside - their response was "oh, it's waiting on some paperwork which needs finished". It'd also be good to have a source of information/advice that's *not* the school or council!