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Address: 22/24 Worple Road, London SW19 4DD. Tel +44 (0)208 947 3131. Main trades and industries: civil air transport, security, AA, aerospace, defence, clothing, textiles, food production and distribution, retail, hotel, catering, chemicals and process, construction, building supplies, furniture and timber, local government, NHS, care, education, engineering, offshore, shipbuilding, energy, utilities.

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      31.01.2002 06:14
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      So many times we hear that trades unions no longer have teeth and sadly this seems true. However there is so much more to a trade union than the ability to withdraw labour. Times have changed, generally for the better, and organised labour has moved with the times. Certainly my own union, the GMB, has as much to offer it`s members now if not more. I originally retired from working for a well known manufacturer of electrical parts and fittings. As the only woman working in an engineering department consisting of almost entirely union members, I saw at first hand the benefits to both the workforce and management of union acceptance. I have also been the recipient of aid from my union without need to ask. We were fortunate in having superb shop stewards and union representatives. Not to mention solidarity of membership. It is so often lack of these which turns blame onto a union when things appear to go wrong. My late husband was a respected shop steward (for another union than mine) and was often called to mediate between management and an aggrieved worker. Although he was at all times discreet it came back to me, from other sources, how much his and other representatives' knowledge of disciplinary and grievance procedures helped an employee and management come to an agreement This was accomplished with common sense and the ability to work with management to the benefit of both sides. A good representative is dedicated to those who are less able to help themselves. Sometimes someone in a planning office decides on a new working practice on a "suck it and see" basis. The workforce, seeing the results of such decisions in advance, can use the union representative to warn of potential disasters. This sort of dialogue, if taken seriously, can only be for the good of all. The GMB is deeply committed to Health and Safety at work. The union representatives are expected keep a close eye on this aspect of the shop floor,
      and are ready to jump in if conditions appear potentially hazardous or unhygienic. It was on a personal note that my union came into it's own for me. When I had an accident at work which left me off sick for 5 weeks I received a cheque for £9 per week despite the fact that, being "staff", I was paid anyway. It was a small amount, but I didn`t apply for it. When my husband died 6 years ago I received an amount towards funeral expenses. Again unexpectedly and unasked for. On my retirement I was informed that my local branch office would in future pay annually my union subscription. Each year since then I have received a Christmas card and a request for my union card, which has been returned stamped as paid. Should I ever need a lawyer, I only have to contact the GMB. Added to this is a travel club, discounts, convalescence facilities and personal loans should I need them. All in all my union is that unheard of thing.......an insurance company which offers it's help, without application should someone else inform them of my circumstances.

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