Exploring the potential of the union equality representative

Bennett, Anthony (2010) Exploring the potential of the union equality representative. Employee Relations, 32 (5). pp. 509-525. ISSN 0142-5455

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/01425451011061667


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to report on a qualitative study of the views of a cross-section of union regional activists and officers on the potential of a newly developed equality representative role in promoting greater equality in the workplace.

Design/methodology/approach – Findings are based on an analysis of interview data incorporating the views and experiences of 32 officers and activists currently promoting equality in a region of the UK.

Findings – Findings suggest that this is an equality initiative whose time may have come. This conclusion, however, is tempered by respondents' belief that the equality representative project can only fulfil its potential if the role is mainstreamed into branch structures, policies and processes and, crucially, that the same statutory recognition enjoyed by other union representatives is granted to the equality representative.

Research limitations/implications – The project is at an early stage of development. Therefore, findings are based on the views of significant proponents of union equality initiatives in the region of study. Further research is needed to assess the actual impact of the new representatives as they become active in their branches and organisations.

Practical implications – There are clear implications for management in terms of allowing representatives facility time and thus sharing the potential benefits of this new source of equality expertise. For the unions, the challenge is to mainstream the new role at all levels of the union and negotiate adequate facility time for the equality representative.

Originality/value – The research is one of the few studies focussing on this new union strategy for better addressing the equality needs of their members and offers a clear insight into its potential success.

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