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Event | 10.09.2013

TUC announces 2013 Congress awards

The TUC has today (Tuesday) announced the winners of this year's Congress awards at its annual conference in Bournemouth.

The awards recognise the achievements of union reps in representing women, young workers, learning at work, union organising and improving health and safety conditions in the workplace.

The winners received their awards from TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady at the Bournemouth International Centre during the afternoon session of Congress.
The 2013 winners are:

Congress Award for Youth
Debbie Wilson, Prospect (Sellafield, Cumbria)
Jamie-Maxwell Caldwell, Unite (Glasgow, Scotland)
Learning Rep Award
Sarah Barnes, GMB (Sheffield, Yorkshire)
Organising Award
Jim Frew and Graeme Ewart, UNITE (Ayre, Scotland)
Safety Rep Award
Andy McArthur, CWU (Luton, Bedfordshire)
Women's Gold Badge
Agnes Tolmie, UNITE (Glasgow, Scotland)

Commenting on the awards TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: 'Reps and activists are the lifeblood of the union movement, whose tireless work often goes unnoticed. When they receive their awards today the winners will be doing so on behalf of the thousands of reps who help to make workplaces safer and fairer.

'From setting up branches in the face of employer opposition, getting people more active in their union, improving workplace learning, ensuring workers' safety and campaigning to making sure women's voices are heard in unions, this year's award winners have shown the value of union membership.'

Congress Award for Youth

There are two recipients of this year's Congress Award for Youth; Debbie Wilson, who works at the Sellafield nuclear site in Cumbria, and Jamie Max-Caldwell who works at Eclipse Blinds in Glasgow.

Debbie has helped build Prospect's Young Professional Network (YPN) at Sellafied into a nearly 100-strong forum after starting with just seven members last autumn.
Her organising skills have helped Sellafied YPN develop links with members from a number of other Prospect branches, including fuel-manufacturing site Springfields, BT and energy company E.On.

Debbie has enjoyed her role in the YPN so much she has decided to become a workplace rep for the union and has played a leading role in helping to improve learning and careers advice for members.

Jamie Max-Caldwell has displayed similar enthusiasm to Debbie in emphasising the value of union membership.

After listening to dense presentations about the principles of trade unionism at different courses in recent years, he sat down with his brother and worked out how to put together a short animated video, using felt-tipped pens and a whiteboard, that could put over all the essentials.

It took Jamie 10 hours a day for seven days to create the video, which packs a huge amount of history, theory and organising into six minutes.

Originally designed to be used by the Unions Into Schools project as a classroom tool to kick-start conversations with pupils about the enduring relevance of the labour movement, the video has attracted thousands of YouTube
viewers from all over the world.

Learning Rep Award

When Sarah Barnes was struck by post-natal depression after the birth of her daughter seven years ago, it was the Doncaster branch of the Action housing and Support social enterprise that helped her make a full recovery.

Once she was back to her old self, Sarah started volunteering at the charity, enjoying it so much she decided to return to learning, having originally left school at 16 with no qualifications.

Two years ago, Sarah applied for and won the job of client engagement officer at Action Housing, where she helps vulnerable adults improve their skills in everything from confidence building to cooking on a budget.

As well as sharing her passion for learning with service users, Sarah is now a fully-fledged learning rep for the GMB and helps organise courses for her fellow workers.
Sarah says she loves helping colleagues and clients and opening up more opportunities for them.

Organising Award

Two years ago, when Unite launched its campaign to gain union recognition at the GE Caledonian aerospace maintenance site in Ayrshire, activists and organisers knew they would have a fight on their hands. The site had been non-unionised ever since it first opened in the late 1970s.

Yet branch chair Jim Frew and branch secretary Graeme Ewart were quietly confident they would carry the day. After setting up the branch they set about combating the company's anti-union campaign.

Local managers did everything they could to disrupt the campaign; they refused voluntary talks about recognition, forcing the union to take the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) route, and threatened to withhold future investment if the workforce voted yes.

And yet against the odds Jim and Graeme prevailed and secured recognition in May 2012. Both reckon there's a lesson for the wider movement in their success against one of the largest companies in the world.

Safety Rep Award

When CWU area safety rep Andy McArthur started as a telegram boy in the Luton delivery office in 1979, there wasn't much of a safety culture in the workplace.

Fellow workers were making themselves ill through the amount of overtime they were taking on; they were off sick for weeks or months through burnout and minor injuries often turned out to be major ones.

However, thanks to reps like Andy, who has over 30 years continuous service, the entire workplace culture at Royal Mail has been 'overhauled'.

He says his secret is that once he has identified a problem, he'll take the time to come up with a number of possible solutions before talking to management - which he thinks is one of the main reasons why he has never lost a case
in his entire career.

For Andy, who is leaving the business shortly after this year's Congress, winning the health and safety rep award means he will be finishing his career on a high.

Women's Gold Badge

When Unite activist Agnes Tolmie started work at the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in the early 1980s, she discovered that the financial sector was a very unequal place to be.

In many banks and building societies while married men could expect promotion, married women might easily find themselves sliding down the career ladder.

It was this sort of injustice that stirred her to first become active in the union, which she had joined on her first day at the bank. She quickly proved her worth as a workplace rep for what was then BIFU (now Unite), running a recruitment drive that ended with all but three of the 124 staff in the building taking out union cards.

Agnes' organising savvy stood the branch in good stead when the bank attempted to introduce performance-related pay in the early 1990s, leading a high-profile campaign against the plans that forced RBS to cave in.

As well as being a tireless campaigner for her fellow workers, Agnes has flown the flag for women. She played a key role in BIFU becoming the first union to table a motion against sexual harassment at Congress.