Proportionality – much done, more to do

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CWU Youth has been increasingly concerned about part-timers in our union. Youth Conference has adopted policy the union to discard the view of a union rep only being able to be someone who works full time hours in a set attendance pattern. Nearly a quarter of our members now are classed as part-time workers. Justice and practicality means we must reflect this in our reps’ structure.

So, on the anniversary of the great Proportionality Forum I was saddened to receive a contribution from a part-time worker whose experience highlights the challenges we have yet to overcome in this area. To feel that you are being treated unfairly purely because of being part time has to ring loud alarm bells.

There is no doubt that the Proportionality programme is key for our union to survive and thrive. We cannot afford not to be as inclusive as possible in what we do. Theres no doubt we are making really significant progress – and you can see the changes in our union. But as the comments below show, we still have much to do.

I debated with myself whether or not to publish. But the article is well-written and raises some important points that we need to debate in the best traditions of the CWU.

We would love to hear the views of other part-timers who are CWU activists.

It is almost 12 months to the day that over 300 CWU representatives from 109 branches attended a special forum at Congress House in London to discuss the issue of Proportionality within the CWU. The meeting represented a cross-section of the CWU’s membership, across industrial sectors, came together to discuss how to progress the union’s proportionality agenda. Contributions from the delegates ensured lively debate and discussion throughout the day and challenged the union’s leadership on just how it plans to implement and achieve proportionality in practice.

What has happened about these issues in the last 12 months?

Conference 2014 got the ball rolling with motions about women making up at least one of the principal officers within a region. There was also a motion passed about equality and diversity training becoming mandatory. This is a great start in addressing the issues of proportionality.

However there were over 30 ideas/themes for discussion (see pages 10-13 in the proportionality document) and many more possibilities of motions discussed on that day.

I hope branches have continued the discussions throughout the year and are preparing motions to submit to conference this year. We shall soon see as the closing was Feb 3rd!

A theme was touched on that day which I feel strongly about: Part time workers and their representation both as reps themselves and the representation they receive as members.

I am a part time worker and have been active in my branch for 4 years. I have also been a workplace for the last 2 years.

Our elections are taking place currently. I am being challenged and having to stand in a ballot for the local rep against a much more senior full time branch official.

I was wondering whether there had been complaints about me from the members – NO there hadn’t.

Perhaps the branch officials thought I was not doing my job, NO, they didn’t, in fact I was told that I am a good rep.

The reason given by the more senior member of my branch who holds a branch office position was because I am part time and not in the office early enough in the morning.

There was no discussion about this prior or since the ballot. The proposed answer to this problem is to get a full time person to be the rep in the office.

This leads me back to the proportionality meeting. Branches being encouraged to get young reps, BAME reps, get positions filled with new blood’, ensure all members are represented, get more people involved to secure the future of the Union.

I was attempting to do this. However it seems that unless you can be in the office at the same time as everybody else, you can’t be a rep. If this attitude was replicated, it will ensure that there are no part time reps.

But, if we want to encourage new or young reps to get involved it is increasingly difficult when barriers are placed in front of them like being told that you can’t do your role as a part time worker.

If proportionality is to flourish within our union and be endorsed by branches, I think we should not be having reps holding multiple positions and stopping new reps coming through.

  • My experience opens up other questions around proportionality and the future of the Union.
  • How does the union get new reps?
  • Should people hold 2 positions except where there are vacancies?
  • Is it discriminatory to only have full time reps?
  • How does the Union achieve proportionality?
  • How does this bring through young / new reps?

Hopefully this has got everyone thinking about the proportionality debate. I hope some more motions in addressing the proportionality are on the agenda at this year’s conference. I hope conference votes overwhelmingly in favour of opening up our union.

And I hope that when conference adopts those policies, everybody supports not just the words but the principles underlying them too.