The coronavirus pandemic has forced a lot of people to shield at home. Usdaw Rep Hazel Uren is one person who has decided to put the time at home to good use and, with the help of the union, been building her skills whilst locked down.
Hazel is a rep at the Co Op in East Peckham and has a real passion for learning and a desire to help and support her members to grow and develop.
I am a Health and Safety Rep, a Shop Steward Rep and a new Learning Rep – so 3 reps for the price of 1!”
I thoroughly enjoy learning new skills and meeting new people and want to help and support others in any way I can. I want to give them options in life where they might not have had many.”
Hazel started working for Co Op in November 2017 as a Customer Team Member, in the fresh section of the Cranbrook store; she soon became aware of Usdaw from a Representative who visited the store at an induction meeting.
I joined Usdaw shortly after his visit when I began to realise that if I needed someone to support me, should any problems arise at work, I knew where to turn for advice.”
There wasn’t an Usdaw rep in Cranbrook and Hazel thought she could help, so she contacted Usdaw and became both a health and safety rep and a shop steward rep in May 2019 whilst also completing the Co Op Boost to Team Leader training programme and was promoted to Team Leader in June 2019.
In November 2019 Hazel transferred to another store to gain more experience and start the Co Op Boost to Team Manager training. In January 2020 Hazel completed the Selection process to join the Usdaw organising Academy.
But due to coronavirus and lockdown everything ground to a halt, I had an interview lined up in for Team Manager in March 2020 but unfortunately it was cancelled and the Boost training was put on hold, and the Usdaw academy was cancelled too.”
This was a huge blow for me as I was really happy with the progress I had been making and all the effort and training I had taken to improve my position at work and within the Union. “
Then, in March, because of her asthma, Hazel was advised that she should not be at work in view of her condition and was advised to shield for 12 weeks.
I decided to use this period at home to gain some qualifications and further my knowledge in areas to help me to support and help others in my roles as a Usdaw rep and as a manager.”
I have had depression and anxiety for many years and have always been keen to raise more awareness and reduce the stigma for others like myself. I completed a Youth Mental health First Aider course last year through MHFA at Mind in Maidstone.”
This inspired me to find a more in-depth course in mental health Illnesses. I went on to complete the NCFE Level 2 awareness of mental health problems qualification online, free through Mid Kent College’’.
’Then I had a look at the Usdaw Gateway and found lots of different courses. I wanted to gain a qualification which would help me in my rep role, so I completed the NCFE Equality and Diversity level 2 course through the rep development area of the gateway, the course was free through Learning Curve. I found both of these courses really interesting and engaging and very straight forward to complete remotely”.
Hazel was unable to complete the face to face Union Learning Rep training using her initiative, she searched for more courses to support me in my new learning rep role, also enabling me to inspire others to get into learning too.
I went onto complete the Union Learning Rep course 1 and 2 through TUC Education. Where I learned how to bargain on behalf of members and how to support workers on their learning journeys. “
Speaking to her area organiser, Lloyd Towner, he suggested that hazel complete the home study courses available. The units are Unity is strength, Democracy in Usdaw, Collective bargaining, Pensions and vulnerable workers.
I completed them and found them all to be interesting, informative and useful’’.
Lloyd also informed me about the new digital bitesize courses available for Reps, which I jumped at the opportunity and completed them all in June 2’’.
Although I have already completed the Reps introductory course at the end of last year, I found these bitesize courses contained useful information and were easy to use. Great for new reps and for existing reps to refresh their representative and organising skills.”
My plan next is to go to the Usdaw Gateway and complete as many of the courses on there as I can, even tackling maths which has been a bit of a bugbear of mine, with the national numeracy challenge and Usdaw’s maths Bitesize course.”
This will enable me to further my knowledge and experience of the courses that Usdaw has to offer and signpost and encourage future learners with confidence and help them achieve their learning goals. “
Martyn Warwick, Usdaw Lifelong learning Project Worker said;
Hazel is a fantastic example of turning a bad situation to your advantage. She’s used her initiative to access a whole range of courses during lockdown, which has given her a whole new suite of skills, knowledge and qualifications which she is now able to share with her members on her return to store."