Every day in workplaces all over the country RCN reps are toiling away, often quietly and behind the scenes, to support members and improve their working lives.
Now a new RCN publication aims to put reps firmly in the spotlight, celebrating their many achievements through their own stories, experiences and a variety of photographs.
“We think it’s time we honoured our unsung heroes,” says Mairead O’Siochru, the staff member who’s led the work. “This book helps us to understand much more about what reps do and how important they are to all of us.”
Launched at the joint reps’ conference, The Value of Reps: In Our Own Words, includes contributions from almost two dozen stewards, learning and safety reps from all four corners of the UK.
It’s based on interviews and photographs taken at an event held at the RCN’s headquarters in June, where members were invited to become changemakers”, sharing their experiences of what being a rep means to them.
An invaluable resource
Among those participating was West Midlands steward Nasreen Rafiq. “Being part of this work has been a real privilege,” she says. “I think the book will be an invaluable resource, especially for those considering the role or who have just finished training.
“It has some really positive messages about how rewarding it is to help members at a time of need, especially when they feel they have no one else to turn to.”
Divided into two halves, the book looks at what reps give to members, alongside what they get out of the role, with many talking about how becoming a rep has changed their own life for the better.
It has some really positive messages about how rewarding it is to help members at a time of need
“Before I became a rep, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to stand up in front of a room full of people and talk, not in a million years, but now I can,” says South East steward Liz Jeremiah, in one of the many stories featured in the book.
Others speak frankly about how they have been able to help those facing the most challenging circumstances. Recalling one particularly memorable case, West Midlands steward Bev Baker says: “When the member realised she could still carry on working in the job she loved, it was an extraordinary moment and something I’ll never forget. It will stay with me for the rest of my life. If I’d not been there she would have given up her job.”
Another of those who has taken part is Wales learning rep and steward Jeremy Davies. “Becoming a changemaker has been wonderful,” he says. “I hope our work continues into the future, helping to move the profession forward and inspiring others to join us.”