“It’s a fantastic learning opportunity. Astounding. Amazing.”

UNISON runs an annual learning event for members working in private companies that deliver public services – it’s a great way to develop the skills and confidence to deal with issues in your workplace

Over 150,000 UNISON members work for private companies that deliver public services.

And every year UNISON runs a learning event so these members can meet each other and help develop the skills and confidence to deal with the particular issues in their workplace.

This year’s private contractors seminar takes place 9-10 November in Leicester. Discussions will focus on mental health at work, sick leave and sick pay, and health and safety.

The deadline for applications is on the 30 September. UNISON branches will cover all costs for members.

UNISON national officer Abby Kimantas says: “We’ve been running this learning event for a number of years, and it’s proving to be a really enjoyable weekend for members working in private companies that deliver public services.

“Whether you’re a hospital cleaner, care worker, administrator or work in a school kitchen, a lot of people face the same issues in different workplaces. It’s a great space to come together, share your experiences and learn how to improve your workplace.

“This year we’re particularly keen to see more registrations from women. Just over 70% of UNISON members are women, and the private contractors seminar is a great space to develop your skills as a union activist.”

Michelle Tymon, works as a domestic at Blackpool Victoria Hospital and has been attending the seminar for three years. She agrees: “When I first went three years ago, I was daunted and anxious about walking into a room of people I didn’t know.

“But everyone was so open and friendly and welcoming. We were all there to gain knowledge and experience, and I’ve ended up building a really good network of people across the country, and we all support each other throughout the year.”

“Most of all, it’s a fantastic learning opportunity. Some of the workshops that have been put on at the seminar have been really good – especially the one on collective bargaining. That’s really helped me with my job, and if I hadn’t started going to the seminar, I wouldn’t have ever known.

“It’s a space to gain knowledge and meet people just like you, who are there to learn something too.”

Chris Akalula, a security supervisor in London and rep for Serco has been attending the private contractors seminar for the past three years. “The seminar is an amazing place to meet people, exchange experiences and ideas and discuss the common issues we face,” he says.

“There are lots of people who work in the health sector there, and when you meet people who are working in similar jobs but for different employers, you realise that the problems you’re facing happen across the industry, and you can get advice on how to handle them and learn from others’ experiences and mistakes.”

“It’s an opportunity to relax, unwind, learn and connect. I had some of the best training I’ve had on negotiating, which was so practical, and really gave me the skills to lead successful pay negotiations.

“Everything UNISON warned me about played out, and thanks to the training I knew exactly how to handle it. It was astounding.

“The seminar is also a great space to hear more about topical issues like menopause, mental health, stress, sickness absence, pay grades,TUPE and employment law.

“These issues can be demotivating and divisive, but being able to discuss them together and have a voice is amazing.

“On top of this, the accommodation is world class, the food is beautiful and you come away from it feeling powerful.”

The deadline for applications is 30 September, remember your UNISON branch will cover the cost of your attendance, and you can apply here.