As you may know I've been plugging the election campaign of Robbie Segal in USDAW for the general secretary's post. As part of the campaign - a blog (http://www.robbiesegal.blogspot.com/) and a website (http://www.robbiesegal.com/) have been setup with quite a lot of interesting pieces on them. Below I reprint one of them, a report from USDAW Distribution Conference.
I would like to thank Robbie Segal and anyone else that was instrumental in organising this long overdue conference specifically designed for the Distribution sector of the union.
The conference went well with lots of good feedback and ideas on how to progress and I look forward to further such conferences.
I believe the Distribution sector is a completely different animal to retail,with totally different needs when it comes to support from our union, and I will give just a few examples.
In retail, take Tesco for example their terms and conditions are negotiated at a national level by an USDAW national officer, in distribution we negotiate our own locally and only involve our national officer if agreement cannot be reached., therefore I believe we should be training our full time convenors in distribution in the art of negotiations,
In Sainsbury distribution centres we have an agreement that the union will spend time with new starters during their induction with a recommendation from the company that they join,my point being that whilst I understand that new members are the lifeblood of our union,we already have this important task covered and enjoy membership in excess of 90%,
I think the limited time spent when new stewards go on their introduction courses would be greatly enhanced by such exercises as role play in representing members in a disciplinary situation,health and safety regulations,and employment law rather than the present, recruitment,recruitment,recruitment, and on this point I think that as much effort should be placed on retaining current members as we do recruiting new ones, and we will only be able to do this by giving them the support and value they are seeking from well trained representatives.
I also believe that some guidance should be given from the union as to agreements we should be seeking,an example of such is a model of an enhanced redundancy package, easier to get an agreement during times when the company do not believe they will ever make redundancies yet almost impossible if redundancies becomes a reality.
I hope now that we will go forward with a true recognition as to the needs of the distribution sector and not be looked upon as the poor cousins in a retail union, which has been the perception for too long amongst many of our members.
Jon Harriss (Convenor Sainsbury`s Distribution Depot Waltham Point) C28