Driven to make the world a better place

We speak to UNISON Eastern young activist of the year Tyler Wythe

Tyler receives his award

‘Where you see wrong in the world, it’s important do right. If we all stand up to the wrong in the world, it would be a better place.’

That’s the advice of UNISON Eastern young activist of the year Tyler Wythe and they’re words he’s definitely lived by in East Suffolk branch.

Tyler only joined UNISON at the beginning of 2022 after four or five years as a refuse loader. But with the cost of living skyrocketing he saw his colleagues forced to take on second jobs or find new work to make ends meet.

“I thought there’s got to be a better deal,” he told UNISON Eastern. “I spoke to my local rep Albert and he suggested I become a steward.”

After getting in touch with UNISON’s Norse convenor Chris, Tyler began holding engagement meetings and recruiting new members. They tabled a pay claim, but as the contract was about to transfer to a new council-owned venture, Norse passed the buck and told him to ‘talk to the council.’

“We did. We had a consultation, then a ballot. Our density shot up and we got 99% Yes to strike in our ballot and served notice of action short of a strike. The day that started we got called in to negotiations and got 23%.

East Suffolk Norse workers vote to accept their pay deal

“For me there’s still a lot of work to do, but seeing the people that appointed me a steward being able to pay their bills and no longer having to look for new work was a real nice moment.”

And Tyler’s made sure he and his newly recruited members and reps keep that work up.

“We realised that equality and diversity wasn’t at the heart of the business at ESSL. It needs to be central in any business. We appointed a Black members officer and we managed to persuade ESSL that they need to do more and they signed UNISON’s Anti-Racism Charter the year after the council.”

Elsewhere he noticed that many of his colleagues were really struggling with the rising cost of living and were often skipping meals.

“These are operationally safety-critical roles. You don’t need to be worrying about whether you can eat in the morning, you need to be able to concentrate on your job. I brought this up with the employer and they agreed to provide cereal, toast, fruit and the business would provide it for everyone.

“I thought it would be 20-30 people using the breakfast club but more and more people are coming, saying they’re struggling and it’s nice to have it here.”

But Tyler’s not resting on his laurels, with campaigns on opening the Local Government Pension Scheme to all staff (at the moment newer-starters are on Nest) and winning back the right to wear shorts both in the offing.