Question: There have been several messages recently about joining a union to help you raise RSI issues with your employer. I agree with this, but feel the need to share a recent experience of mine and to vent my frustration on this topic. Apologies for the length. I was a union rep for 3 years and was the rep at the time I got my RSI. Company was not very supportive and the union didn’t do much to support me, telling me that I didn’t have a case to sue, it was just bad luck.
This was explained to me by the main union rep who knew nothing of my medical details and without consulting a lawyer/medical expert. (I think he didn’t want me suing as might upset union relations with company). Having taken redundancy last year due to the fact I had been blacklisted because I was the HR reps worst nightmare a union rep with RSI,
I went to see a lawyer to see if I had a case to sue for my RSI. He said I possibly did, but as I had been a union rep I should get the union to help me with my case. So contacted the union who looked into it and said sorry but couldn’t refer me to union solicitor as I was a ‘lapsed’ member. It seems that from the £52 a week job seekers allowance I was living on they expected me to continue to pay union subs each month!
So I’d risked my career by being union rep and paid subs for all those years and this was the help I get. I am totally disgusted with their attitude and wonder how many other members have to suffer before they (the GPMU) really take this kind of case seriously. However, as union rep I did raise RSI issues with managers and acted on the requests of my members, which is what all good reps should do.
Although I didn’t manage to get the managers to take the issue seriously (they still believed that there is no such thing as RSI!). But if you do join a union you need to join in advance of suffering anything, as joining once you have RSI and expecting help is a bit like trying to join the AA after your car has broken down.
Despite all this I do still believe in unions as they have a role in helping raise employers awareness of RSI issues. Thanks for reading this, has anyone else had any similar experiences? Or any good experiences? As I know many cases taken to court are by unions – but obviously be members who continue paying subs when they are made unemployed due to their RSI!
Answer 1: I have been in discussion with H&S folk at the TUC. I’m happy to follow such problems up with them – to point out the serious failures which are happening in the TU movement. I do need formal permission from each individual for this of course and it will not happen tomorrow, as I will need details from several people to get some action moving. Any others want to inundate me with their stories? I’ll need evidence of several people from any one union and preferably several different unions to make more than a mini impact.
Answer 2: I got nowhere with my Union either before I got RSI complaints about a workload that was both too heavy anyway, and unfair in relation to my colleagues’ loads or after (RSI, failure of the University York to keep its promises, written and other, to supply me with speech recognition software and the relevant hardware, a workload that was too heavy etc.).
I was dealing with the main Union reps. I did manage to push my way through to the Regional Officer too late, I should have tried that tactic [ignoring the rules and approaching the National Sec. direct] far earlier. I managed to make him feel pretty bad but that was all (It was clear my local Union Heads shouldn’t have behaved like they did, they should have supported a move for compensation, and supported me.)
Answer 3: Sorry you had such a bad time with both the RSI causing career problems and a non supportive union. Unfortunately, we live in an unfair world, and, like you were, I am a Union rep with chronic RSI. It is not just RSI: I have hyper mobility syndrome, osteoarthritis in knees, hips, neck and back, and possibly shoulders too, torn rotator cuff tendons which may be nothing to do with the job, and the HMS makes me much more prone to RSI type injuries…
I have often jokingly said I must be the unhealthiest and unsafest Union Safety rep in the business!!!!(I am in the Musicians Union), as I had a major car accident last year which kept me off work for 8 weeks with whiplash, and also managed to write my car off earlier in the year in an accident in the car park at work!!!(neither was my fault!!!) I also managed to wreck my violin by driving over in my car last year as well-can anyone improve on that?!!!:-) But seriously, I do feel that when we have given so much to a Union for so long, that it is very cruel of that union to “dump” ex members when they can no longer afford to work!
So far, I haven’t had to invoke the MU’s help in terms of RSI problems, but a colleague did have a nasty accident at work last year which they are supporting him in claiming against the venue where the accident took place(it was negligence on the part of the venue, not our employer!) Maybe one day, RSI sufferers will really get the help and recognition they need! (perhaps the words “pigs” and “fly” might come to mind?!!!
All the best to you and I hope you will be able to receive all the state benefits you need. I am lucky at the moment, in that I am still working, but i know that I will not be able to go on for more than the next 10 years or so.(I am 40), and I won’t get a penny from our Sickness and Permanent Disablement scheme that is part of the pension, because I had a pre-existing condition before I joined, and they excluded me, so I need to go on working for as long as possible!!