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Jane Doolan: Branch secretary on 37 years in Islington UNISON

PUBLISHED: 12:29 10 January 2018 | UPDATED: 12:29 10 January 2018

Jane Doolan, branch secretary of Islington UNISON. Picture: Polly Hancock

Jane Doolan, branch secretary of Islington UNISON. Picture: Polly Hancock

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As branch secretary of Islington UNISON, Jane Doolan has an important job standing up for 2,000 public sector workers. She discusses it with the Gazette.

If you’ve worked for Islington Council in the past 37 years, chances are you’ve come across – or worked with – Jane Doolan.

Jane has been branch secretary of Islington UNISON, the trade union for public service workers in the borough, since 1999.

But her association with the union goes back to 1981, when she became a steward on the libraries committee.

Jane, born and bred in Islington, recalls: “I had always been very interested in the trade union movement. I didn’t really think of getting involved, it was just an interest.

“But like an awful lot of people, I went to a meeting, voiced an opinion and my predecessor thought: ‘There’s someone who might be interested in being a steward.’”

At that point, she had been employed by Islington Council as an assistant at Central Library, off Holloway Road, since 1974. Today, she works in the same building, with Islington UNISON headquartered there.

Jane continues: “Branch secretary is definitely the hardest role I’ve had at Islington UNISON. I’ve also been chair and vice-chair. But this is also the most rewarding. I like getting involved in campaigns, and doing personal casework.

“There’s day-to-day stuff, like running the branch and dealing with members’ issues. Sometimes it’s dealing with pay briefings, other times it’s like counselling as some members just want to talk to you.

“We also do campaigns. As a branch we want to give something back to the community, so we support local initiatives like the summer reading challenge in libraries.”

Islington UNISON has about 2,000 members, largely made up of employees from Islington Council but also other groups such as the Howard League.

Jane also describes how the demographic has changed since 1981: “It used to be incredibly male-dominated. I was the first female branch secretary.

“Now one of our issues is being an aging union. We want to get more young people interested and sometimes they don’t know about us until they have a problem.

“I’d really like to get more young people on board, and if Jeremy Corbyn becomes Prime Minister, who knows? He’s a member of the branch himself, and is certainly quite a crowd puller when he attends our meetings.”

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