Simon Jones: World in union
Author: Simon Jones
GOC-registered optometrists and dispensing opticians have got themselves a union, thanks to the Ophthalmic Practitioners Group (OPG).
Union status has long been an aim of the OPG, but the roadmap to achieving that hasn’t always been simple, so creating an optometry branch within the long-established union Prospect seems like a sensible move.
Trade unions are traditionally a divisive subject, but as a member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), it will be no surprise for you to learn that I think the creation of the OPG’s union will fundamentally be a good thing for the profession. The NUJ has been incredibly helpful for me in the past, with collective bargaining power securing improved terms for employees on editorial contracts within a company and it was a great resource when Optician went through its change of ownership in 2015. However, I have also worked for a publisher that effectively refuses to acknowledge the existence of the NUJ.
Ultimately, it’s recognition by employers that will make or break the OPG union. Employees in multiples or larger groups can enjoy the benefits of collective power, but for the OO or DO in single practice, membership may well be a harder sell.
Naysayers will say much of what the union is working towards is covered by employment law and adequate recourse in place to address employer breaches. That might be true, but we shouldn’t pretend that retail optics is perfect, and parts of the OPG’s mission statement, like ensuring working weeks are reasonable, may well be of help to any practitioners concerned by commercial pressures.
Many will also ask whether British optics really needs another membership organisation. There may well be something in that, but as long as the OPG remains focused and doesn’t try to become all things to all men, I believe there’s a decent chance that it will stand the test of time.