Chris Beales – Branch Treasurer

Hi, I’m Chris. I’ve been working for the Environment Agency for over 20 years. That sounds like a crazy long time but it has flown by. I’ve been a union member for all of my working life. For me, it’s just been an obvious thing to do. I believe the world is a better place when we join together, and look after each other. That’s at the heart of being in a union.

A few years ago I was at one of the Branch AGMs and there was a call out for anyone interested in being the Treasurer. I was moved by the opportunity to give something back – and I’m a hydrologist, so I’m used to numbers and spreadsheets, and I put my hand up. I’m really pleased I did, it was like joining a new family. The Branch Exec are a very caring group: deeply concerned about the welfare and wellbeing of everyone at work…my colleagues, my friends…and me.

Is the union still relevant?

That’s an interesting question. We work for the Environment Agency, and it is a really good place to work. And I have a lot of time for James Bevan (our Chief Executive). He is creating a culture of kindness – something that was particularly notable through the pandemic, with strong messages of reassurance and support to all staff.

So with all that niceness…and bearing in mind the the cost of the union subs…is it really worth it? Yes it is!

For all that I believe James does fight for the EA staff, I think he really benefits from the unions. He is being pushed one way by a cash-strapped (and not notably ‘public sector friendly’) government. Without the unions there to push back the other way, with evidence and red lines, our pay, terms and conditions are only going to head south.

And following on from that note: I am writing this in a pub, nursing a nice pint of beer (a bit of a luxury given the usual demands of family life). 10 years of my salary being near-as-damn-it frozen compared to the cost of living means I’m about 20% worse off. Like so many things, the cost of this pint of beer is very depressing. This can’t go on much longer. The household budget is getting tight (and that’s before the cost of energy goes through the roof). We need to stop this. We need a union stronger than its been in my working life to stand up to government and demand a fairer pay settlement. Standing together I hope we can bring back a bit of balance…when the richest 1% of the world own half the world’s wealth, things have gone very wrong…

There are more benefit to being in the union though, which I hope we can help to promote as an Exec. The reassurance of knowing that the union will be there for you if anything goes wrong at work is great. There is a lot of legal support as well, which I know some members have used in their personal life, which kind of makes the union subs like paying for some useful insurance. Hopefully we’ll be able to get some anecdotes up onto the site to share some of these benefits.

What do I want to achieve?

At the moment I’m really keen that we can make this new website a useful resource for our Unison branch members. Hopefully, as well, it will help to explain the benefits of joining to more members of staff so we can grow and become stronger. The bones of the website come from my personal site, which I hope is nice and easy to navigate. I must mention a massive thanks to Tams Evans, who has put a lot of work into building content for us, and is real support for our Exec.

We’ve got the AGM coming up on Wednesday and I’m hopeful that I’ll be re-elected. As Treasurer this year, I’m hoping to help the branch spend more money. Our activities have been quiet through the pandemic. As we come back though, there is a lot to do. Shifts to the new world of hybrid (home/office) working may cause friction, which our stewards can help with. Health, safety and wellbeing (including especially mental health) will need support. For all of this – and everything else that we do – there are a wealth of training opportunities, and various conferences that members can attend. And the branch has money to support what we are doing.

Thanks for reading this. I wish you well and I hope together we can make some good things happen this year.

All the best,


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