There are various types of problems that you might experience at work. However, if you need help from a union, you must join it. If you are in a workplace which is already unionised, you should approach your local rep or shop steward. If there is no union at your workplace, then find out which one you should join, by the methods described in the ‘How to Join a Union’ section.
Not all unions are prepared to help someone who has only just joined. Most union officials and reps are overwhelmed with work already and understandably they will prioritise those people who have paid their dues regularly. However, unions are keen to recruit people and also to get a foothold in workplaces with no established union, so they may be willing to help if you join up. However, it will not always be possible for them to provide someone to accompany you to a meeting, if there is no rep already on site.
It is always nerve-wracking to take up issues with management as they inevitably involve conflict. But you will be more confident if you are well prepared. Also, management are often keen to resolve workforce problems as well, and won’t necessarily take an uncompromising stance.
Tips on talking to management
Generally, with problems that may require communication with management, such as redundancy, disciplinaries and bullying you should:
Keep an accurate written record/diary of all incidents/meetings/conversations which could provide evidence.
Be prepared – see below for the section on your rights and useful info. If you go in prepared, management will realise that they have to follow all procedures to the letter, otherwise they could risk being taken to an industrial tribunal. Ask for any relevant documents/policies from your HR dept for example on H&S, equal opps, procedures in the event of disciplinary action, redundancy, bullying etc.
Always try to take someone into a meeting with you – they do not have to speak, but they should take notes if possible or at least be a witness.
If you have a complaint against a co-worker or a line manager, be very careful about your accusations. Back up what you are saying with specific detail and do not fall back on personal insults. Keep calm. You may have to be prepared to negotiate or compromise in some situations.
Please note that Trades Council can not do specific casework, as we are not insured to do so – you will need to join a union to get representation and specific advice.