Recipe for success as an independent school rep

Bruce Paine has been a highly successful rep at an independent school for 20 years and he shared some of his tips for success with Newsmonth.

Kinross Wolaroi School Orange is a busy, large co-ed boarding school where most staff work six days a week and union membership is high.

History teacher Bruce has been Rep there for most of his 20 years at the school, and is currently Central West Sub Branch President, regularly attending IEU Council.

He said first and foremost being a good rep is about mutual respect between staff and the rep, and particularly between rep and principal.

Bruce has experienced four different principals in his time as a rep and said in an independent school it is important to recognise that the principal values that independence.

The ability to hire and fire and manage salaries is something that attracts principals to independent schools.

Bruce said it is better for the union rep to approach the role with that understanding.

“Some reps don’t accept that and end up fighting with admin all the time,” Bruce said.

“With two-way respect you can achieve a lot. I have a situation now where the principal consults me before instigating new programs. It’s not about agreeing all the time, it’s about finding common ground.”

Bruce said he also tried to “keep it real” when it comes to maintaining and recruiting members.

“I talk about things that apply to them directly rather than airy fairy stuff.

“I’ll be honest and tell them straight away if it’s not a Union matter and they need to speak to their HOD [Head of Department].

‘You shouldn’t promise anything you the Union can’t deliver.”

Bruce said he never does a hard sell on potential members but takes a ‘softly softly’ approach and emphasise Union membership is insurance against any future complaints or contract issues.

“The bigger picture of the industrial issues and solidarity with the Union come later.”

Bruce said attending regional and branch Union events like Council helps him understand how the Union operates so he can be more effective on a school level.

He is currently working through an informal workload agreement for the school which will be formalised when the time is right.