After I retired, I did battle with myself over my relevance to TSSA. Should I just call it a day?
It takes time to adjust to your new status and to understand that you have a lot to give, a lot of knowledge and experience. No longer being a workplace rep doesn’t mean you can’t contribute.
Staying close to what’s happening in the work place, talking to members and workplace reps and other TSSA colleagues is important to me.
Remaining as Secretary to Branch and Divisional Council wasn’t something I envisaged but these posts, for many reasons, are difficult to fill these days, as are all lay Officers positions generally across the TSSA. The workplace is changing and our members work in stressful and pressurised environments, they can’t always commit to taking extra union roles. Retired members can fill the gap. Being able to stay in these roles, has been vital to the sustainability and democracy of the TSSA structure at this time. This will change and I am ready to mentor a new generation of Branch officials.
Opportunities arise when you are retired, you have the time and the space in your life to give back to others. Time to fight for what you believe in. More importantly I am now able to raise the profile of women across the TSSA and wider Union community.
As a former member of the Executive Committee, at a time when there were only two women members, we understood that we needed to champion and encourage women to engage in the union democracy, to encourage women to join TSSA’s Self Organised groups and to seek nominations at Annual Conference to get women’s voices heard, not just in TSSA but also within the Trade Union Congress and Labour Party.
Against the backdrop of misogyny and bullying this has not always been easy. TSSA women have supported each other through these difficult times and have come through stronger and more determined to smash through the glass ceiling.
Joining the Retired Members Group was pivotal for me, making me aware of my potential as a retiree and as a woman in the Trade Union movement. Supported by TSSA I also sit on the National Executive Council of the National Pensioners Convention. The NPC campaign on all older people’s issues and are becoming a force to be reckoned with and joined with TSSA to fight Ticket Office closures.
Being retired has allowed me, as never before, the space and opportunity to purse my union activities.
So don’t think of retirement as the end of an era but as a new beginning supporting TSSA to become stronger in the workplace. Retired Members are a TSSA valued resource, together with working members and TSSA Officers we can become a force for change and the future stability of TSSA .
Cheryl O’Brien. Wales No 1 Branch.