When teacher Terry Allen joined Mansfield Primary School, the sub-branch had fallen silent. Now it speaks loud and proud thanks to Terry and her colleague Stacey Currie, writes STEPHEN A RUSSELL.
When Terry Allen joined Mansfield Primary School almost two years ago, the sub-branch had all but disappeared. But she was encouraged by close colleague Stacey Currie to sign up for training with the AEU. Both passionate members, they were determined to turn things around, reigniting the school’s connection to the union for the good of all.
“I think it’s important, because we need a voice,” Terry says. “And we need to have something to back us up with that, to make it known to the school what the union does to help us.”
Stacey had already attended the AEU’s level one reps training, with Terry following a couple of weeks later. They then completed level two side by side. “It was really nice to be able to do that together, because we could bounce ideas off each other.”
The pair make a great team. North Eastern Organiser Jan Kelly attended the first sub-branch meeting they hosted and was impressed by the turn-out, including the school’s principal Tom MacMunn and several non-members who have subsequently signed up to the AEU.
“It wasn’t just their enthusiasm, but their leadership and guidance on how to set up the executive roles,” Jan says.
“Stacey and Terry could not speak more highly of the training and the drive they got out of it. It was wonderful to see the emergence of a very strong sub-branch. They love the union, which makes my job so much easier.”
“Her enthusiasm to stand up for what’s right and her passion for making sure that we have a voice, and for helping people, makes it easy.”
One of the first issues the newly energised sub-branch was able to address constructively with leadership was the use of Professional Practice Days (PPDs).
“There were some issues here at the school about us not getting the opportunity to choose what we wanted to use our PPD for in Term 1. Leadership wanted us to do a particular thing, but we were able to clarify that the union says we have the opportunity to choose what we want to do. Leadership were like, ‘Oh, yeah, OK – that’s great’.”
It was a clear example of how an organised sub-branch can help smooth over any miscommunications and ensure a healthy, happy working environment for all. Another example involved assisting an ES member to secure a pay rise.
“Stacey had a chat to her and now she’s in the correct pay bracket,” Terry says. “And that’s a big thing for her, and a real win for the sub-branch, so we were really excited about that.”
The reps had a big job on their hands, but they went back to basics. “Stacey went through some old handwritten minutes from about 15 years ago and spoke to the person who was president then. And that’s what we started with.
“So, what we’ve done is contacted people who weren’t in the union and talked about the benefits of joining, and what the union does for us. And we’ve just made it much more visible.”
Visibility was a massive part of rebuilding the union presence at Mansfield Primary. Terry and Stacey put up a pinboard in the staffroom, created a Teams channel where they summarise the AEU’s school bulletins, and clearly communicate sub-branch meeting times and dates.
“We’re still getting there, but we’re well on our way,” Terry says. “We had nearly everyone show up for our first official meeting to assign roles this year, so I’m hoping that attendance will keep up.”
She and Stacey are also involved in the school’s consultative committee, so staff know they can turn to them for advice and support. Leadership are on board too.
“They’re really supportive of the staff having a voice, and really supportive of the union,” says Terry. “They’ve agreed that they’ll come to meetings, but they’ll leave before they finish, so that if there’s anything else that needs to be discussed without them, they are more than happy for that to happen. Anything that we ask, or we put to them, they listen to and do what they can.”
Terry says working with Stacey is energising. “Her enthusiasm to stand up for what’s right and her passion for making sure that we have a voice, and for helping people, makes it easy.”
Both agree that a well-functioning union presence can make a big difference in a workplace. “For me,” says Terry, “it’s just knowing I’ve got that support if I ever need it.”