Role and Responsibilities
DUTIES OF A SCHOOL REPRESENTATIVE
The maintenance of the INTO’s position of strength as a trade union is contingent on the recruitment of new members. School representatives have a key role in recruitment.
Direct recruiting of another member of staff is not always an easy task. The following suggestions may help:
- Introduce yourself to new teachers. Outline your role and explain that you are there to help and advise.
- Advise new teachers on the benefits of INTO membership and other conditions of service.
- New teachers should be advised of special meetings for new teachers.
- They should be given membership application forms to complete and sign. The school representative should ensure that the forms are completed properly and forwarded to the Northern Office without delay.
- New members should be invited to Branch Meetings and the procedures explained to them.
For more information and for further help with recruitment of new members check out our School Reps Recruitment Section.
WHY CALL MEETINGS?
The school representative should call regular meetings of INTO members in the school:
- To discuss issues within the school.
- To inform about and report on INTO meetings.
- To explain directives and policy decisions.
- To obtain the members’ views.
TIME AND VENUE
Meetings should be held as and when necessary. The school representative does not have a right to call meetings during school hours. However, in many schools the period immediately before or after a school meeting is often used for an INTO meeting. In this case, it is important that it is clear to all parties that this is a union meeting. It is usually acceptable to have the meeting on the school premises with prior permission from the school authorities (see Facilities Agreement). Management may allow meetings during school hours provided appropriate arrangements can be made for the care and supervision of the children.
RUNNING OF MEETINGS
All the members who are represented by the school representative should always be invited to attend. Meetings should be held promptly and run efficiently. Members should have prior notice of the items which are to be discussed at the meeting. With a small group, it may not be necessary to have a written agenda, but members should be aware of the order of business and the procedure to be followed. The school representative should chair the meeting.
The discussion should be kept relevant and to the point. Every aspect should be considered. Careful planning prior to the meeting will help to ensure that this is the case. All the members should be invited and encouraged to express their points of view. Before a decision is made, the school representative should try to ensure that everyone understands precisely what the implications of the decision would be.
When a decision is made, it should be recorded on an agreed form and read back to the members. Minutes of such meetings are not absolutely necessary. Decisions should always be recorded. Meetings should be brief. Advice should be sought where necessary from the Northern Committee representative or Northern Office.
3. HANDLING MEMBERS’ PROBLEMS
In most cases members will bring problems to the school representative. It is also necessary to look out for issues which members do not raise because they may not be aware of their rights or the appropriate agreements or regulations.
Whenever a representative is faced with a problem, a number of questions must be asked and decisions made. Here are some of the main points which must be considered:
What are the facts? Is it a grievance against management? Is it an individual case or a broader problem? Can it be settled locally? What agreements cover this problem? Are there any INTO policies on it? Do any legal rights apply? Should advice be sought elsewhere? How should the members be involved? What is the INTO’s aim in cases like this? How should the issue be taken up? If necessary, what pressure can be used?
Members bring different sorts of problems to the school representative. For example, inadequate heating is the direct responsibility of management and should be taken up with the principal. Always plan carefully when dealing with members’ problems.
Some problems may be resolved through advice. The representative should try to be helpful even if the problem is not directly concerned with work and should find out where to send members for more advice.
Complaints about other members should not normally be taken up with management except in respect of a member’s responsibility for aspects of the running of the school. In the latter instance, management may be the appropriate authority to arbitrate on a dispute.
GRIEVANCE AND DISCIPLINARY PROCEDURES
Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures for teachers in schools with non-delegated budgets are contained in the INTO Handbook. The Board of Governors of a school with a fully delegated budget shall establish Disciplinary Rules and Grievance Procedures and shall take steps to bring these to the attention of staff. Model procedures have been agreed with the TNC and these model schemes have been circulated to schools. The Grievance Procedure provides machinery for the resolution of grievances for teachers in schools.
There are two factors to consider in relation to a complaint, viz:
- The immediate problem;
- Underlying causes.
The school representative will have to decide which of these it is most important to deal with.
It is often easier to get a settlement on an individual case without drawing attention to broader issues. The representative will have to decide which to emphasise, bearing in mind the strengths of the case and the importance of the issue when the case is taken up. It is important to remember that negotiations on an individual case can affect other workers, or future negotiations, by setting a precedent. Because of this the school representative should consult others and take advice from Branch Officers, Northern Committee representatives or Northern Office.
CAN IT BE SETTLED LOCALLY?
This question depends largely on the issue involved. It is always desirable to settle issues at local level.
When dealing with a problem, the school representative should refer to existing agreements as:
- An existing agreement may provide a procedure for handling a problem;
- Management may have broken an agreement so the representative should try to get the agreement honoured;
- There may not be a written agreement which covers the problem so it may be desirable to seek a settlement of this case without raising wider issues;
- If there is no written agreement, or the agreement is unclear, then custom and practice may support the case. Your Northern Committee Representative can advise as to how similar cases have been settled in the past.
The representative should always check and seek the advice of the Northern Committee representatives on written and informal agreements before taking up a problem with management.
When dealing with members’ problems, cognisance should always be taken of INTO policies. It is important to check the relevant policies and bring them to the attention of the member or members concerned.
Branch officers, Area or District representatives or Northern Office will advise and assist where necessary.
LEGAL RIGHTS AND ASSISTANCE
In some cases the member will have legal rights which could affect the settlement of the problem.
Some examples of areas in which legal rights may apply are:
- Maternity leave.
Legal rights are a minimum on which unions build. Most rights at work are best enforced through negotiation and union action.
If the school representative believes that a member requires legal advice or assistance, the member should be advised to contact their Northern Committee representative or Northern Office.
The INTO Rules outline the qualifications which are necessary for a grant for legal expenses from INTO funds and the conditions to be fulfilled.