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Reps' code of conduct

A rep's role is to defend and represent our members, not use their position to ingratiate themselves with management for personal gain at the expense of our fee paying members. They should always be mindful that any negative comments or observations about our members could have a seriously detrimental effect on outcomes for them and leaves the union open to potential negligence claims.

Reps must always present a united front to the outside world and any disputes between reps must not be played out online or in front of other members or employers. Any difference of opinion should be discussed and resolved via official internal channels.

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 all reps should aim to follow, so that they may continue to act in the best interest of the Union and all of our members.

All information and data on our members must be kept confidential at all times and never discussed online or in person with anyone other than the member concerned and those whom they have given specific consent for discussion to take place. A signed letter of authority should be obtained for each individual, if a couple, as soon as you commence representation.

All reps represent the IWGB in a public capacity, some more so than others, but still, this means people look to them as the face of the IWGB. Their 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. 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:

  • Self-awareness
  • Reasonableness
  • Politeness
  • Balance
  • Moderation

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.

General behavioural guidance

  • Do not get angry
  • Do not expect thanks from many people - most will never acknowledge or appreciate how much work you do
  • Keep your eyes on the prize, or the final goal
  • Our first priority is to our members, so it is our duty to act in their best interests at all times
  • You do not have the authority to discipline another trade union member, so cannot impose any sanction on them of any kind. The IWGB Executive Committee is the only body that can discipline members, and must follow due process in order to do so.
  • If you are having difficulty with the behaviour of another member(s), then raise it with the IWGB EC, who are there to assist you.
  • We are a broad and diverse group of people, who may not agree on everything all the time, so decisions should be made democratically, via votes, whenever possible.
  • Our mandate as reps is to follow through on democratic decisions.
  • Do not disclose membership numbers to anyone at any time under any circumstances. Journalists, employers, lawyers, non-members, and even members often ask for membership numbers, for a variety of reasons. It is good practice not to disclose any figures, because this can backfire on campaigning strategies, result in victimisation of members, or provide employers with more opportunity to divide-and-rule, all of which undermines the power of the Union and the hard work we do building that power. As a rule of thumb, you may say that the IWGB represents 3000 people nationwide, but do not disclose membership densities in individual workplaces.

Dos and don'ts for social media

  • There’s no need to rush into arguments
  • Do not engage with online trolls
  • Remain polite at all times
  • Maximise your privacy settings on your personal social media channels. If you’re unsure how to do this, request help from the IWGB Executive Committee. Your private life is your own and IWGB has no intention of prying. If you are an elected rep, if you engage via your personal accounts in conduct unbecoming of a member, then this will be a breach of union rules. This includes, in particular, posting racist, discriminatory or offensive material. Particular regard should be had to Article 27 of the constitution. Take steps to protect your own privacy from others and be aware that your actions and communications may be interpreted by others as being in IWGB’s name.
  • Be aware of which account you are using: if you have access to union communications channels, act in accordance with union policies and do not engage in contentious issues that are not union-related. These include, but are not limited to: comments on political parties, journalists, public figures and policies that aren't directly related to worker rights. It also includes endorsing the opinions of others on non-union/non-worker rights matters through "shares", "retweets" and "likes".
  • If you are in any doubt if your post complies with this policy, refer it to the Central Union Press Officer prior to posting
  • Ask for help or advice whenever you need it, no question is too big or too small

Primary obligations

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.