The IWGB is a rapidly expanding union and we are very fortunate to have many highly dedicated and enthusiastic reps representing our members in dozens of workplaces across the country.
However, we have never formalised a Rep’s remit, and although duties are set out in Branch Constitutions, it’s also important to give some extra guidance, especially as some of us have less experience than others.
This “code of conduct” is a way to centralise and generalise standards for our Reps, so that the Union may continue to maintain a good relationship with the public, may maintain its good reputation and effectively represent its members. Reps are on the front line and often go above and beyond their obligations out of the sheer goodness of their hearts. This guidance has been consolidated as a quick training tool, and provides standards we can all aim to follow, so that we may continue to act in the best interest of the Union and all of our members.”
All Reps represent the IWGB in a public capacity, some more so than others, but still, this means people look to us as the face of the IWGB. Our behaviour and conduct, for better or worse, reflects back on the IWGB as a whole, and the public will judge the whole Union accordingly.
The reputation of the Union is of paramount importance because it is what maintains trust and confidence in us as an organisation, and if this is lost, then we will likely lose members, supporters, donors, funders and perhaps even cease to exist. Damage to the union does not benefit members in any way.
It is therefore of utmost importance that Reps are aware that:
They are part of a team
They need to work together with other Reps and members to achieve change
Their conduct online and in real life may be documented by members and non-members
Their individual conduct should be professional and polite at all times
Respect for all people at all times is essential
They are responsible for what they say and do
It is therefore important that Reps exercise:
At all times, and towards all people, including members and non-members, Union Staff, employees, officials, volunteers and supporters. Being assertive and forthright in defence of members’ rights and in support of union aims is welcome. But it is important to stay on the right side of that line.
Being a rep can be challenging because we can come “under fire” from all directions, and are often “on the front line”, when it comes to anti-union sentiment, blame-games, and personal attacks.
Despite this, we must maintain a calm and reasonable response, and not be tempted by Union-baiters, whose main objective is to rile Union representatives and undermine the power of the Union through malicious intervention. Often people who are seeking to undermine the Union are simply powerless themselves, may be a corporate puppet, may have a personal agenda, and may be attacking us to assert themselves.
In such situations, or if you feel out-of-your-depth, attacked, or tempted to respond and fight, it’s always best to take a few breaths, disengage, and ask your colleagues for help.
Elected Reps’ duties are set out in the constitution of each branch. Appointed reps will be informed of their remit by whoever appointed them, generally speaking that will be the Chair of the Branch. Work together with reps from your branch and cooperate with those from the wider union: together, we are stronger!
Make it clear that any branch official should not use union media to engage in any political issues unless the issue is directly and specifically related to their membership. Broader political issues will be the purview of the IWGB Executive Committee.