The IEU rep plays an important role in any school, and anyone can fulfil the position, be they new to education or an experienced staffer, a teacher or member of support staff.
The rep is the go between between the Union and the rest of the staff, but they are not expected to carry a heavy burden of responsibilities.
For larger chapters there is usually a team running chapter meetings, with a secretary to take the minutes and a chair to run the meeting. The rep’s job is to communicate union news from the organiser to the rest of the staff and take back any messages from the staff to the Union.
The rep may be asked to communicate problems with the principal, but any difficult issues will be dealt with by the IEU organiser assigned to the school.
All IEU organisers appreciate the work done by reps and are there to back them up. They provide support and advice and the Union provides online advice, training days and kits for reps. Reps are never left to ‘go it alone’ with problems.
Many reps report improved confidence and better communication skills from the experience. So called ‘soft skills’ like talking, listening, negotiation and self-confidence can be improved by being a rep.
Reps need to be able to approach principals in a professional, objective manner when dealing with any issues. Their organiser will intervene if trouble arises.
It’s a role you can make your own – do the basics of disseminating information or become involved with the Union and get to meet other reps from other sectors and participate in activism and advocacy.
“It’s not necessarily a fired up militant who makes the best rep. It could be a calm, quiet person who’s a good listener that suits the role,” one organiser said.
Reps get to feel they’re part of a bigger picture and ultimately their work is benefiting all their colleagues, not just at their own school but across the non government education sector.
By keeping a watchful eye and doing their bit to uphold working rights and conditions for school staff, they are ensuring a better workplace for all and better outcomes for students.
For more information see https://www.ieu.asn.au/resources/rep-resources or talk to your organiser.