Keep smiling

Discuss the union, don’t give up, and share real life stories – these are among Angela McDonald’s tips for becoming an effective IEU representative.

Angela, of St Thomas Aquinas Primary School in West Belconnen in the ACT, has been an IEU rep for about 10 years. She took up the role after being mentored by colleague Sue Ferguson, a former rep and IEU Council member.

Recently elected the union’s Vice President ACT and member of the Executive, Angela says she encourages others to think about the rep’s role by providing them with information about the union, attending the IEU Activist Conference and inviting people to IEU events.

Teachers and support staff face increasing workloads, with administration taking over from core duties and safety issues for both students and staff, especially around managing challenging behaviour from students and parents.

Angela finds it challenging when people do not know their rights and responsibilities and haven’t taken the time to read and understand their enterprise agreement.

“Young staff don’t understand that low union membership means less entitlements and that they’re not bulletproof,” she said. “Teachers and support staff are vulnerable – things can turn quickly.”

Angela advises other reps to make one day a week their ‘IEU day’ during which they complete a union oriented task such as responding to emails from members, dropping off a form to a potential new member or fixing the on-site union display.

“Use staffroom chatter to discuss the union and, as a situation or need arises, invite your organiser to come and chat to staff,” she said.

“Smile, be transparent and keep your principal in the loop.

“Meet in a neutral space, don’t take things personally and don’t give up. The tide will turn – just wait for the next big issue or enterprise agreement.”

Angela enjoys being a rep because it keeps her informed and up to date about both professional developments and industrial relations issues. It also gives her a chance to help others.

“I love meeting people, making new connections and learning new things from others,” she said. “I love being part of the bigger picture and the charitable works of the IEU.”