Charlotte Gardner

Leading a network of 50 reps

I’m responsible for all the office staff at British Gas

I’m the chair of a network of about 50 local reps across the country, and together we look after about 10,000 employees.

The team of reps I have is the best.

They’re having to balance their day job with trade union responsibilities, but they really deliver. That makes my job a lot easier.

I first joined the union because I could never keep my mouth shut.

I was always the one asking questions in team meetings. Someone asked me if I’d be interested in being a rep – I was already a member of GMB so I thought why not. I didn’t see myself working my way up the corporate ladder, but I could see myself helping people.

GMB has been in British Gas for over 100 years, but attitudes have changed in recent years.

New managers coming in haven’t always worked in a place where there are active trade unions before and might not understand the issues. Some people have swallowed the misconceptions about trade unions, too – and that can be challenging.

I started a network for women reps

It was for both staff (office-based workers) and industrials (the engineers) – to share best practices. Most engineers are men but we’re seeing more and more men with sole responsibility for children. We were able to draw on their experience of approaching things like childcare or flexible working.

In my role I deal with redundancies and restructuring.

In 18 months, British Gas lost nearly 4,000 people. There are about another 6,000 redundancies to come.

If you’re told you’re no longer needed after 40 years, that’s massive.

People can’t see a way forward; they believe they won’t get anything else. It’s the most difficult part of my job. You end up becoming almost like a counsellor. You have to take the time to listen, let people talk, look at their options and try to get the best deal for them.