Case Study

Squeezing the maximum benefit from being a rep

31 August 2021

Tim King, a funding manager for the National Lottery Community Fund, talks about being a Prospect rep, negotiating hard with senior management and the positive differences he has been able to make in his workplace.

Man with his arms up in celebration

Tim King has loved and revelled in being Prospect rep at the National Lottery Community Fund, which is lucky because he didn’t know he was going to be one. A colleague had put his name forward without his knowledge.

“It was a little bit naughty but she’s a lovely person and she’s still here at the Fund. I think she just got to know me and sneaked my name forward,” recalls Tim.

“When I found out about it, I thought, oh well, I’ll give it a go and see what happens.”

Perhaps the shock was somewhat alleviated because unions run deep in Tim’s family.

His father, an engineering worker, was a union man and Tim has vivid childhood memories of the union rep visiting their home, and the men all calling each other ‘brother’.

From starting at NatWest and working his way through the branch network into managerial positions, Tim has been a union member throughout his professional career.

He has now been with the National Lottery Community Fund, whose sole purpose is to distribute around £500m every year to good causes, for about 14 years.

In a quirky twist of fate, the Lottery Fund is based in the same Birmingham building as his first managerial role with NatWest and, on his first day, he found himself sitting at practically the same desk.

Being impactful

Tim King

Tim King

“As a workplace rep, I am very proactive in promoting the union, getting involved with everything and trying to squeeze the maximum benefit out of it. My attitude is to use some imagination and creativity to push the union forward,” says Tim.

In the last few years, Tim has stepped up to a senior negotiator’s role and his facility time has grown to three days a week, which allows him to be even more impactful.

“I suppose I’m lucky because I’m in a manager, role rather than an officer role, so I have a bit more awareness about union-related matters and people-related matters.”

How has he found sitting across the negotiating table from senior management?

“I must admit I’ve really loved it,” replies Tim. “I really have. I have said to members and colleagues that I actually wished I worked for a union now!

“What’s great is that you’re sat across the table from a director and projecting the views, experiences and concerns of an officer grade member, who is in a totally different financial position to them. They live in a totally different world and it’s important the messages they give out on behalf of the employer takes that into account.”

“I’m always happy to challenge them during negotiations and challenge their responses.  I certainly hold them to account.”

Despite not being civil servants and being funded entirely by lottery operator Camelot, the Lottery Fund is subject to the public sector pay freeze.

“We are under the restrictions of the public sector pay guidance, but I will be pushing management hard to submit a special case for us rather than accepting yet another pay freeze.”

Wins for workplace colleagues

Recently Tim has had two challenges with HR managers.

The first was when the organisation decided to abruptly stop paying working from home expenses, which they said was due to a change of guidance from HMRC. The misunderstanding was swiftly pointed out, and the expenses were re-instated.

“The next one was when a message went out to staff saying that the pay settlement had been agreed at zero, but the pay negotiations hadn’t even started yet,” says Tim.

“We immediately contacted members to say pay negotiations hadn’t started so it was a little early for the Lottery Fund to say a pay decision had already been made. We are currently surveying members and will be putting in a pay claim soon subject to feedback”

However, the frustration and rankles on pay aside, Tim is also quick to say they’re lucky to have, overall, a pretty good employer and some really good benefits and terms and conditions, which the union has helped to secure.

While he is holding the senior management to account, he is also benefiting and learning from his interactions with them.

“When you’re negotiating, you’re being exposed to the very top level of the organisation. We meet with the CEO and have regular meetings with directors. We’ve got branches throughout the UK and I’ve been exposed to many more directors than my peers,” Tim says.

Successful campaigns

Aside from the altruistic and moral reasons, Tim has found being a rep richly rewarding on a personal level.

“I was involved in a high-level employment issue and got some great support from Prospect head office. Together we got a really good result. Having those different experiences, particularly when they’re tough ones, adds a lot of breadth to your skill set.”

He’s also been on several of Prospect’s courses for reps, as well as ones that are run by the TUC.

“I’ve been on some Prospect courses where there have been BT reps there, and listening to them is great. You realise how poorly their employer treats them and how aggressive they must be to counteract that. It’s quite eye-opening.”

It was on a TUC training course a few years ago that helped Tim to start a workplace campaign on the menopause, which had been on his mind after watching a TV documentary.

“I rate myself as a good and experienced manager, but I’ve never considered the impact that the menopause could have on people in the workplace. I bet plenty of other managers will never have considered it either, so I wanted to do a campaign.”

As a result of Tim’s campaign, the Lottery Fund created a menopause policy and are paying for consultations and ongoing support for affected staff.

“All that came from me watching the documentary at home!”

Advice for budding reps

“In my place of work, it is all about giving grants to help people who are in a difficult situation. Being a union rep is very similar,” says Tim.

“It’s about supporting your members, your colleagues, and sometimes that can involve very difficult situations too.”

“As a union rep you learn a lot of new stuff, you meet a lot of new people, and you experience a lot of things. It takes you into a different world, which enables you to grow and develop skills, which you can then use anywhere.”

And, if a someone was thinking about being a rep?

“I would say, absolutely, go for it. I have never regretted it for a minute.”

Public Services

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