Unfair treatment at work inspired Michael Goozee to become a union rep at 21 years old — changing the course of his life.
“When I was 21, I started work in Southampton as a postman. I was on a 26-hour per week contract, but soon started working longer hours because the workload was so heavy, with a lot of mail to deliver. When I asked for overtime pay to fit in the extra work, the managers refused.
I soon found out that other postiesin my office had the same problem. So a few of us got together and agreed to work only our contracted hours. The first time we returned with undelivered mail at 2pm, the managers suspended the youngest worker for a week. It was awful. She did keep her job, but was told she’d be in real trouble if she ever did this again.
Around that time, the Communications Workers Union area rep visited and told us the union rep in our office was stepping down. He said the role was about helping people around you, which felt like it would suit me, and that you’d get loads of training and support, which reassured me. I de-cided to go for it.
The training has been fantastic. Some of it is more on the organising side, like how to chair meetings or recruit members. The other important module was on postal policies and procedures, which helped me really understand the agreements that the union has with Royal Mail. I also get mentored by senior CWU reps.
I’ve been able to support countless colleagues. For example, one tripped over at work and broke her ankle. She took leave to get it operated, and when she came back her boss tried to sack her for taking too much time off. I was able to highlight the correct procedures: if you have an accident at work you shouldn’t be punished. The managers tried to go ahead anyway, but we appealed the decision, and won.
I’ve also fought hard to get managers to follow the national agreements Royal Mail signed up to after it was privatised, such as granting special leave for family emergencies. Some see reps as confrontational, and in a sense we are fighting, but all I ever do is try to make sure the agreements are followed. I’ll start by having an informal chat with the manager, and if they dismiss it, I’ll raise the issue formally. That’s what the procedure is.
My life has changed tremendously since becoming a rep, and without the union’s support, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Now, I’m a full time postman with paid time off to do my role as rep. I’m even getting support from my union to do a degree at Ruskin College in Oxford.
It’s not all smooth: I sometimes feel like I get penalised by managers for standing up for workers. But I don’t let that deter me. If it weren’t for the union, I’d have quit this job years ago and gone back to sweeping chimneys with my dad. I stayed because I felt protected and supported, because of the training, and because I could help others. That’s really rewarding.”