One afternoon, quite late (and I used to work very late..way past official hours that ended at 7pm), I got a phone call in the Union Office. It was from a highly concerned lady.. who was the sister of a disabled lady. The caller was in a panic, because her sister (the actual client!) was being ordered to attend a Disciplinary Hearing of some sort the following morning at work.
What’s so crazy about this? Well, the Managers of the disabled woman had phoned her home to tell her about the hearing.. Okay, slightly unusual, but so crazy, you might think.
What would you say if you knew that the disabled client is fully deaf in one ear, and partially deaf in her other era, and she was being telephoned by her Civil Service managers in the evening, telling her to attend her disciplinary hearing the following morning?!
What kind of equal-opportunity based Civil Service manager `phoned’ a 75% deaf woman at home? to communicate an important career threatening news?
Well, I was outraged to hear this. I put my entire career in Civil Service on the line, and told the lady (sister of the client) that a) her sister should not attend the meeting, b) I will meet with to fully study and take up her case, and c) I will go to that meeting next morning and face the Managers, Directors and Personal Officers.
And I did! They were all waiting, as I walked in, and presented them a formal letter – that I as PCS Union rep have taken the case, and until I get onboard fully, and set up subsequent meetings, no contact must be made between them and my client. They were stunned, and tried to intimidate me..that the client’s job is at stake, and that even mine might be jeopardized. I said I will take the consequences. I then informally told them off for trying to contact a deaf woman by telephone! And walked out.
You have to bear in mind, between the time I got the call the evening before, and me getting early morning to the meeting, I had had no other contact from my own Union President or other officers. Time was short, and action was needed, and I made decisions and put every thing on the line. It was my job as a Union Rep (Branch Assistant Secretary & Equal Opportunities Officer, PCS Home Office, Croydon.. between 2002-2004).
Not just a job..but a cause I fight with passion in my heart, and clear fire in my mind! Or I could not have won that case or faced far worse Civil Service Hearings and Tribunals in other client-cases! I have saved the jobs of pregnancy women, asthma sufferers, depressed workers and more.
Sadly, this chapter of my life had an unhappy ending.
Many months on, we started to have a divide between the actual Union Reps of that branch (Croydon Home Office). Little things became big issues, and what lurks in the hearts and minds manifest as feuds and dirty fights- where on the one side, there were 2 Officers (me and the Secretary)..and on the other…President, Vice President, Treasure, PR Officer, and all the others. They executed dirty tactics and slander poster campaigns against me and my colleague. And it all came to crisis, when the Vice President actually swore at me in abusive language in a Union Branch Committee meeting, and tried to attack me (he had to be stopped by others).
This resulted in me making a formal complaint to the PCS National President. We were called in for warning meetings. But the bullying behaviour against me and my colleague (in e-mails etc) continued. The PCS called us in and dissolved the whole committee, and the branch!! All Reps were sent back to the `normal posts’ – into the hands of our old adversaries…those bullying managers and directors whom we had fought and won so many times!
They broke us…because divided we were, and we fell weak.
And the other hundreds of suffering clients…suffered..because they had no Resp to take up their cases and fight! Those members paid the ultimate price for our own internal wrangles!
It was well over a year before PCS had elections and got a new system going. And they had 3 `branches’ in the same road, stretching over 15+ buildings, where as before it was all 1 branch. This only weakened the Union’s power.. Things were never the same in Croydon afterwards.
And I was the straw that broke the Camel’s back!
Now you know why I absolutely loath large clunky Committees and Councils..and power positions in Organisations. I don’t like it, and even when people give them to me, I slip out. They all- sooner or later- bring internal power politics..and the ideals and objectives get lost, and the very people its supposed to serve..are the ones who suffer! I find that I can do more genuine work for the people, out side of politics and large committees. In committees, people get lost in Corporate Identities, towing the party line, blind loyalties and such!
I’ve had similar experiences in at least 2 other places.. one at a Charity I worked, and other in a large community organisation. Well, that’s another story or 4 …for the coming darker days of Winter.. Ask me in person and I’ll share my wisdom 🙂
But for now, Thank you Peter Roberts, for teaching me how to handle office politics. His advise: `Ignore it and just keep serving the people!’
Ref: Extract from my CV
2002-2004: Full-time PCS Union Representative, IND, Home Office
- Posts: Elected Equal Opportunities Officer / Assistant Secretary.
- Tasks: Served local (Croydon) branch with 3,000 members across 17 buildings. Provided assistance, advise & representations to staff members; Negotiation with Managers; Handling personal cases; formal meetings and hearings; Issues of H&S, T&C, Pay.
PCS Union (Public & Commercial Services)