Supporting stewards essential to building union’s strength

Jim Main
Jim Main

#uNDC16 Conference backed a range of measures to improve training and support for activists. The motion recognised that we have lost a significant number of experienced activists because of austerity and privatisation of public services.

The call for more flexible training, e-learning and monitoring and support for new activists was backed by a Glasgow City amendment calling for branches to be encouraged to hold more branch based Organising Stewards courses to include modules which would bring stage 1 accreditation.

Helen Ann Hawkins
Helen Ann Hawkins

Glasgow’s Jim Main told delegates: “After last night’s (referendum) result we are going to come under attack like never before. We have to be organised like never before.”

Cameron is gone but: “The Tories are still here and they are going to come after every library, day centre, everything that we hold dear.”

Shop stewards are the heartbeat of the union and the front tine in the resistance. They need to be trained and confident. Recognising that, Glasgow runs steward training courses in the branch and has trained 26 new reps this year – and recruited over 1,000 new members.

Helen Ann Hawkins, a nurse working for Lanarkshire Health, said that she can do her job “with my eyes shut” because she was nurtured and allowed to build her confidence many years ago. But then she was told she was moving and her branch stepped in to support her.

Helen Ann said: “My fellow steward, who happened to be my mum, told me I was becoming a steward then I was becoming a steward!”

“I’m pretty sure you can all relate to the straightforward case that unravels before you”, but as a steward you are just expected to get on with it. “That shouldn’t be the answer”, said Helen Ann.

That’s why Lanarkshire Health Branch has set up a buddy mentor system where more senior stewards support new stewards.

“Maybe if we could incorporate that into the organising steward’s course, it would encourage more stewards to improve their confidence and be more active.”

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