Any charity/non-profit sector workers out there?

15 posts / 0 new
Last post
the button's picture
the button
Offline
Joined: 7-07-04
Jul 7 2004 15:41
Any charity/non-profit sector workers out there?

I'm new to enrager & was wondering if there was anyone out there working in the charity/non-profit sector either paid or unpaid. I'm based in SE London & am a paid worker for a national charity. It'd be good to know what others have made of working for this type of organisation, and any successes or failures in workplace organising.

This is my first posting, but I won't be hurt if no-one replies cry wink red n black star

coyote
Offline
Joined: 28-03-04
Jul 7 2004 16:53

Ex...

I was involved in failed attempt to unionize. Details later...

coyote
Offline
Joined: 28-03-04
Jul 7 2004 17:30

Okay:

Was unpaid vol. sector worker for a while. There was a relevent section in the MSF union I joined. That was ok-ish.

However, when we attempted to unionise the workplace problems arose. All worker were unpaid, and all joined the union. Encouraged to do so. good. But the manager/cordinator - who at the time was also unpaid had his eyes on a funding and a paid position. So any attempts to a have a workplace branch of the union (as opposed to all being individual members) was opposed on the grounds that if we started taking collective decisions we could threaten the funding. I forget exactly when/what the flashpoint was. But the result was we all ended up quitting. Irony is the manager/cordinator was a big lefty and very pro unions... roll eyes

Ramona's picture
Ramona
Offline
Joined: 19-09-03
Jul 7 2004 21:47

Have worked in the charity sector for a few years, in my last work place it was totally funded through charity, we got shit wages, shit training and the whole team had back problems (which i am now recieving treatment for as I can't lift properly without my whole spine seizing despite not being 20 yet!), and when one of the autistic children I was looking after knocked me out, they got my mum to drive me to the hospital (despite the fact that she was working) and they deucted the two hours I missed due to being in A&E. Nice.

Now I'm also in SE London and working in childcare but this time a mix of charitable and State funding (SureStart etc), wages nearly double and general feeling of not being treated like complete dogsbody by all... As for unionising, well, it'd be nice but wouldn't have a clue where to begin. Not least because I'm sure my co-workers would laugh in my face!

the button's picture
the button
Offline
Joined: 7-07-04
Jul 8 2004 11:59

Thanks for those responses. I work for a national children's charity at their London HQ on the admin side. There are a handful of UNISON members here, but they tend to be counsellors or supervisors (usually both), and they're a bit insular. Like I've asked for a membership form at least twice & haven't got one. Same happened when I suggested a bit of an organising drive.

In the meantime, management tell us, 'Sorry & all that, but no £ for a payrise this year......... oh & by the way, we're restructuring & outsourcing some of your work.' And then employ a new finance director on £40-odd grand a year.

My last 'proper' job was solid union (I was a Branch & Regional Secretary), and even though management hated us (3 attempts made to sack me over an 18 month period), it was a lot harder for the bastards to get away with the kind of things they get away with here.

As an old fart of 34, I'm older than most of my closest co-workers, who appear to have no experience of working for a boss where there's a strong union. There was a bit of interest in the TUC's 'Take your breaks' campaign 'cause I'm the only one who takes his 15 tea-break ('cause I'm the only smoker!), and I've been nagging them to take the breaks they're entitled to.

Oh, and another thing........ management have recently issued a 'vision statement' (or whatever they're called this week!), saying that 'every job in the agency should be able to be done by a volunteer.' Of course, if they keep our pay frozen, we'll all end up as volunteers anyway!

Well, that's that off my chest. Perhaps we could keep using this strand to pool experiences, gripes & any small (or, you never know, large) victories we might have had.

Solidarity

red n black star

the button's picture
the button
Offline
Joined: 7-07-04
Jul 8 2004 12:00

That's "15 minute"!

embarrassed

belboid
Offline
Joined: 19-04-04
Jul 8 2004 16:30

I work in regeneration in sheffield, and am branch chair of the TGWU ACTS branch here. We've had some small successes in terms of getting people recruited and the union recognised in a few cases =- even winning some extra benefits (pensions, holidays) or compensation for people.

My experience has been tho that such successes are overwhelmingly achieved only very very slowly. Whils tin my last job union membership eventuially reached almost 100%, that was because of a string of attacks upon people, and then upon our general working conditions. In my current post, again only a couple were members on principal, tho several others have since joined due to harassment from the local union rep and them being treated like shit.

As its a natinal charity, do you know if there are members of other unions at any of the other sites they operate? I think there's a thing somewhere on the TUC website that should tell you.

yes
Offline
Joined: 1-04-04
Jul 8 2004 17:05

smile Ha! Ha! Ha!

Quote:
15 tea-break (s)

wink

blueporta
Offline
Joined: 10-11-03
Jul 8 2004 17:07

hello fella, ive worked in the voluntary sector for nearly 10 years, primarily with homeless men but also in projects for ex offenders with heroin and or crack addictions. in general, staff are becoming better trained but are generally poorly paid in my opinion, however projects are being run more and more like a business with more emphasis on balancing the books and formulating policies and proceedures designed to appease what i call the middle class pc dogooders rather than enhance the lives of the service users themselves, than "care". i guess this is brought about by increasing government funding and regulation, such as "supporting people" etc and i suppose this will only continue in the future. "care" however, is a multi million pound industry now with huge contracts available going to large, business like housing associations and the like, all of which ultimately in my opinion is to the detriment of the most vulnerable and voiceless in society. in terms of unionisng, i myself am commited to the iww but havent particularly had much success in agitating in thje workplace, a wave of apathy being the normal response, must be me!

OldGit
Offline
Joined: 6-06-04
Jul 8 2004 22:56

Button, this is not advice, not even a suggestion, just a thought.

How do you reckon your elitist UNISON colleagues would react to a hint that you were thinking of joining another union and importing a rival? Indifference? Hostility? A rush to sign you up, or a rush to get you sacked?

Afterthought - inter-union feuding, a gaffer's opportunity.

Isn't there anyway that all this ruthless exploitation by organisations that wish to present a caring image to a gullible public can be turned into adverse publicity?

the button's picture
the button
Offline
Joined: 7-07-04
Jul 9 2004 11:49

In response to belboid & Old Git...

I contacted the TUC with details of my job & they suggested Amicus, although as far as I know, there are no members of Amicus here.

A few years ago, there was a 'consultation' on whether workers here wanted a union or a 'staff association,' and the findings disappeared without trace. There are redundancies in the pipeline at the moment & it emerged that the 'staff association' had never been set up. With the result that staff 'representatives' had to be elected (read, 'appointed') to negotiate on redundancies with no training or experience. Add to that the fact that the only people who were properly included in the consultation on redundancies were those 'directly affected,' i.e. those individuals who stand to lose their jobs. No recognition that restructuring has knock-on effects. And certainly no recognition that (to coin a phrase) an injury to one is an injury to all.

As for trying to set up another TU here, I don't think that would be a good idea. Just repeating the traditional problems of trade/craft vs industrial unions. While the UNISON members can be a bit insular, they're still my co-workers (if they did but know it!). This said, I've had a look at the UNISON website & their section on organising in the charity/non-profit sector is all about 'partnership.' Sigh.

As a relatively new member of staff (joined October last yr), I've been invited to an 'open day' with members of other departments later this month, so I can do some subtle sounding out about what it's like for them working here, and take it from there. I must admit that, having been a union rep in a union job, it's kind of hard to be constantly biting my tongue about the shit that goes down here so as not to get myself fired, but like a lot of you have said, it's slow, patient work.

red n black star

Krop
Offline
Joined: 23-06-04
Jul 15 2004 20:05

Yes, currently working for an advocacy agency. Strange how a supposedly empowering organisation can be so disempowering to its staff!

the button's picture
the button
Offline
Joined: 7-07-04
Jul 16 2004 11:56

You're not wrong there, Krop. In my own case, strange how an employer that takes so many calls from kids about bullying should operate in precisely the same way itself.

I think one of the problems with organising here is that people tend to very 'pro' what the agency does (& I can't deny it does some good work sometimes, especially helping kids stand up to social services & get what they want). Perhaps a way round it is to say that the agency should be run the same way it expects social services/schools to be run.

This is kind of a response to an earlier posting, which suggests exposing the way this place is managed, & the mismatch with its alleged aims & values. And I know that my employer had some input into the TUC's campaign against workplace bullying.

I'm just thinking aloud here.....

red n black star

the button's picture
the button
Offline
Joined: 7-07-04
Jul 23 2004 11:48

Maybe a little premature to break open the champagne, but.....

I found out yesterday that by October 2005 there'll be a 'staff representative body' here -- either a 'staff committee' or a union or a mixture of both. Also, after a quiet word with a UNISON member, they asked me if I'd be interested in being a rep. I was quite open about my red n black star politics & she didn't run away screaming. Yet. wink

Early days, obviously, and with an equally obvious potential to disastrously wrong, but that's the struggle for you.

smile red n black star

lucy82
Offline
Joined: 31-05-04
Jul 24 2004 08:56

some of my worst working experiences were for charities. in one (un-unionised) the boss ended up being exposed on radio for bullying in the workplace. there were only about eight members of staff and six were going to tribunals with her, it was that bad.

in the second one, there was a coup to depose the chief exec because of his socialist politics (using info gathered on the net), the argument being he was using the charity to promote his politics. seeing as it was the biggest public health charity in the uk, acted as a pressure group against the government and was involved in lots of health issues, it was kinda hard to keep politics out of it.

he lost his job and because i thought what was happening was wrong, i stood up for him, so i lost mine too. the "official" reason was that the office was shutting. odd then, that it reopened about four months later when we pesky people were out of the way.

charities often implode on staff because of the way the board feels it owns and overcontrols the organisation and the strict hierarchy with volunteers usually undervalued and at the bottom of the pile. it happens in loads of organisations, not just charities but the smaller charities do seem to be suseptible to it (maybe because they attract so called philantropic control-freaks at the top, who aren't used to creating professional working relationships of mutual value with staff or maybe not...) confused

people in the second job were in T & g, and it was a waste of time. the advice i got from them i could have got off the net, they didn't return my phone calls and were rarely available to speak too. they were more interested in the chief execs problem than mine (no surprise there then), and i felt they wanted the kudos of a high profile case which eventually made it into the national newspapers (because i got revenge by telling the press what was really going on twisted )

suppose that should teach me not to stand up for chief execs really...

unions are only as strong as their members but the offices were spread around the country so the workforce was fragmented and there were only a few people working in the manchester office, so it was easy for the managing board to divide people up through fear and rumours.