Why I'm Backing Lynn for AGS - Guest Blog by Hamish Drummond, PCS member
I am a far better Trade Unionist, and a far better person, for having learned from and worked with Lynn Henderson, and PCS is a better Union for the work she has done. When Lynn started work with PCS, and we first met, I was 24 years old, a new Branch Secretary, and newly co-opted onto the PCS Scotland Committee as a Young Members’ observer.
The full Scotland Committee were to receive Campaigns and media handling training, and I assumed that “that was for the grown-ups”, so responded to my invitation saying that I thought it best I didn’t attend. That same day, Lynn phoned me to say that on the contrary, she thought it more important that we had Young Members with that training than anybody else, and asked me to reconsider - I am so glad that I did, although Lynn may occasionally have regretted it, as the training she delivered that day gave me the confidence to put the case for our Members in Dundee to the media on what in that first year was almost a fortnightly basis, and she had volunteered to proof read anything we wanted checked over before we sent it out...
Within four months of Lynn delivering that training, the Director of HMRC Contact Centres, worried by how much coverage issues in the Dundee site were receiving in the press, on the radio and on Scottish Television, had requested a meeting with our Branch to try and address those issues - we got some significant changes, banked those winnings, and then, with Lynn’s support, stepped up the campaign to win even more! Crucially, Lynn took the approach of empowering Lay activists locally to make that happen - investing time in building our skills and confidence in the belief that investment would, in the long run, pay off through a sustainable local capacity to do it all for ourselves - it worked.
The current Branch Secretary gets unprompted phone calls from the local press on slow news days to see if we’ve got anything to put the world to rights about, and despite never directly having been on Lynn’s course himself, he has the confidence to answer “yes” and get stories highlighting PCS Members’ concerns coverage with a frequency that no other Union locally could dream of.
Thus, more than anybody, Lynn Henderson can take credit for the “reputation” Dundee has in HMRC - she taught us how using the media can positively support a bargaining agenda, how we can recruit and build strength by being seen to raise the profile of Members’ concerns, using that strength for leverage to gain tangible improvements in our Members’ working lives. It isn’t just Dundee that has benefitted in this way from Lynn’s approach, however - the whole of Scotland has.
As a PCS Lay Tutor delivering the introductory course for new reps, I remember asking if Lynn would be willing to give ten minutes of her time as Scottish Secretary to come in and introduce herself and her role to a group of new reps. Like our Membership, but unlike our activist base, the class, which had two male tutors, was predominantly women, and that day I had the privilege of seeing just how significant it was to those new women reps to see a woman in a senior role. I had asked for ten minutes of Lynn’s time, but there were so many questions, answered so willingly, that the session ran for over half an hour and featured on nearly every feedback sheet as a highlight (including those of male attendees).
Lynn inspired everyone in the room that day, openly answering questions about being a woman in what can be a very male movement, giving confidence to the women in the class and perspective to the men in the room, myself and my fellow tutor included. I saw that effect too when Lynn gave up her public holiday to come and address the Dundee Trades Council May Day - a confident, articulate woman, with a Scottish accent to boot, talking about how public sector cuts would harm everyone, caused women passing by to stop, listen and engage with the message in a way that a man delivering the same message, even had he been able to say the same thing word for word, could not have. Her recent work through the STUC to tackle under-representation and harness that potential has been inspirational.
That’s the crux of my support for Lynn - she takes the long term view that giving up a bit of time to encourage the new reps that will ensure the continuing vitality of our Union is time well spent - she’s willing to give up her public holiday to travel across Scotland and address a rally that we tell her may not have many more than 50 people in attendance (she drew a lot more in).
Lynn believes in our movement, is of our movement, and is actively improving our movement, leading by example, encouraging under-represented groups to get involved and ensuring that their voices are heard. I am proud to consider Lynn a comrade, a mentor and a friend, and I absolutely believe that if we elect her Assistant General Secretary it could be the best decision PCS Members have taken since I joined in 2002.