Union Provides Confidence Boost!
Here’s another of one of my occassional stories about how being a part of the union and getting active has changed peoples’ lives. Let union members know of these inspirational stories as part of your union or branch development and help change good members into great activists. Please let me know of any similar stories you may have for publishing here and in TUC organising publications – we know they’re out there!
Jocelyn Pettitt is Unison Branch Development Officer in their East Midlands Region – this is her story in her own words
I joined the Union (NUPE) approximately 1988/89 when I was appointed as a part time Warden with a borough council. I had been out of employment for the past six years due to living abroad and having two small children.
I joined the Union when I found out that there was no one representing the Wardens at the time, and as the job is quite specialised, felt it was appropriate to have a voice. My first branch meeting was in a school hall, as it was part of a large county branch, and there were mainly male stewards at the meeting. Undaunted, I continued to represent the Wardens, my first success being to get an allowance for Outdoor coats for those who had to do outside visits.
I was asked by the Branch to become Branch Secretary when the previous member wanted to retire. I found out about Return to Learn, and although I had been educated to ‘A’ level standard, felt that it was still relevant as I had been out of the workplace for some time, and felt the course might help with confidence building and also networking. I achieved both these personal outcomes, and took opportunities within the Union to do further training including Branch Officer training, Women’s weekends and became a regional representative, becoming Regional Women’s committee chair and also a national women’s committee delegate for a term.
All these experiences within the Union gave me confidence to speak at committees and also conferences.
When NUPE merged with its partner Unions, we became a district branch, and I became joint Branch secretary with the then NALGO branch secretary. I have also undertaken various other roles within the Branch while encouraging others to take on roles.
I believe the confidence and experience gained within the Union gave me the confidence to apply for promotion, and also to stand as a Parliamentary Candidate in the 1997 election. Throughout this time, colleagues within the Union encouraged and supported me.
I gained promotion twice within the council, leaving as a Supported Housing Manager, managing the sheltered housing and housing and advice teams, with 50 employees, mainly women.
I was fortunate to apply for and be appointed to the temporary role of Branch Development Officer (Equal Pay) recently in the region who helped, supported and encouraged me in all roles I have had and applied for and have a temporary contract to the end of this year. I am hoping it is just the beginning of a long lasting career in a role that I have been interested in since first stepping into the role of steward 20 years ago. I would encourage anyone to join a Union and take advantage of the many opportunities offered.