The groups of workers who tend not to be well represented are women, black, disabled, part time, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers.
These equality groups tend to be workers who are most likely to experience discrimination and inequality in the workplace and within society.
Firstly, because one of the principal objects of PCS is to promote equality of opportunity for all our members. Secondly, because PCS is a democratic union and democracy requires that all our members can participate in the activities of our union.
Thirdly, members in the equality groups often have a different experience of workplace policies and practices and it is important that we draw on their experience and take their views into account.
Fourthly is an issue of credibility: why should employers take the union seriously on equality issues if we are failing to address equality in our own representative structures?
In tackling under representation, the aim of the exercise should be to ensure that the union’s representative structures reflect the diversity of the membership in a particular area whether at workplace, branch, regional, group or national level.
The starting point for this must be to ‘map’ the area that you are working on. What picture emerges from employer’s monitoring figures about gender, ethnicity, disability, sexuality and working patterns amongst the workforce?
The mapping process may identify that the profile of the workforce does not reflect the profile of the local community.
If that is the case then the union must play a strong visible role in improving recruitment amongst those groups that are under represented.
This will not only demonstrate the commitment of PCS to tackling inequality of opportunity but also lay the foundation for a union which is more representative of the community
The next stage is to map the union in that area as far as you can and ask the question ‘does union membership reflect the workforce or are there certain groups who are not members?
If this exercise reveals gaps than you will need to start with a recruitment campaign. This is a fairly obvious step to take because you are not going to be able to tackle under representation within union structures unless those groups are employed within the area you are looking at and unless those groups are members of the union.
The final stage is to monitor the union structures you have in place to cover the area.
Having mapped the workplace and mapped the union organisation ask the question ‘how representative of our membership are the union structures in that area?’ The answer to that question should indicate this size of the problem and the scale of the gap.
There is no one answer to this but some reasons may be:
Whilst one of our aims must be to ensure that all members can and do participate in the union in ways such as attending meetings, voting in elections and attending learning events, when we talk about representation we generally mean taking up an elected post which allows that person to have an input into the union’s decision making process at whatever level.
These may include:
Identifying the various roles and levels of participation is important in order to give a clear pattern of where there is under representation and because most union reps at senior levels have progressed through the structures below and gained experience along the way.
It seems an obvious point, but unless you are clear about what you want to achieve and develop a strategy to support your objectives, you may end up with a vague aspiration which doesn’t translate into any real change.
Here are some points to consider:
This factsheet is available in hard copy from the PCS equality department telephone 020 7801 2683 or email : email@example.com