Why I Joined UNISON

Branch Secretary, Kevin O'Grady on why he joined UNISON.......

On 20th November 2008 I will have been an employee of Norwich City Council for 30 years.  I joined UNISON (actually NUPE one of the partner unions) on 20th November 1978.  Yes it was my first day at work and the reason was quite simply that we were a closed shop.  This meant that I had to be a member of the union.

 Would I have joined a union if this had not been the case?  Of course I would.  The previous five years I had been a student at a sixth form college and then teacher training college and I was an active member of the Students Association, at the former, and the National Union of Students.  In addition knowing that I would be entering public service then I would have joined whatever union was appropriate because I knew it was important that I should be a member..

My parents were both in unions and my granfather and uncle were miners and solid union members, so you could say it was expected of me, although I was never under any pressure to join.

My first real activity as a union member at work was in the winter of 1979 when we took industrial action over pay, and in those days the pay deal was for 10% not the 2.45% we are offered now.  Mass meetings in the snow in Chapelfield Gardens was a real eye opener for a student straight out of college.

 Following a change of job at the council in 1981 I became a member of NALGO another partner union of UNISON and shortly after became active as a steward.  In 1992 I became Branch Secretary, a full time secondment, a role I was not expecting to undertake, but one I have enjoyed in the years since.

I have worked hard in that role and I have supported many members who have had difficulties with some success, and yes, some failures.  I have also used my role in the branch to progress in the region and to undertake some work at a national level.  Being active in UNISON certainly allows you to do this.

I would encourage anybody working in local government to become a member of UNISON, a great trade union with great traditions and one that, I know, will do its utmost to protect its members in the workplace.