When we think of workers who must give up time with their families over Christmas, we often think of public sector workers such as ambulance crew, nurses and police.
But there are many other workers who, although not working in emergency services, still have jobs that are critical to ensuring our safety over Christmas.
In the part 2 of our series about working over Christmas, we speak to Jamie Bramwell, a highway maintenance operative who works in the North West for the firm Balfour Beatty.
He’s been keeping motorways safe for the last 15 years – and for 11 of these years he’s worked over Christmas.
“It’s sad to miss out on family and friends over Christmas but it’s gotten easier now that my children – who are 12 and 15 – have gotten a bit older,” he explains. “There have been times when our schedules allow us to nip home on Christmas morning before we have to go straight back to work.”
Jamie says the work he does is enjoyable because no one day is the same – one day he’ll be gritting roads when it snows, the next he’ll be dealing with animals on the road, and another day he’ll be called out after a diesel spill.
“What we do is largely reactionary so on a typical Christmas I could be doing any number of things,” he explains.
“It can be especially challenging when the temperature drops and you have to work outside in challenging weather,” he adds. “It can also be frustrating when drivers don’t take care when the roads are slippy – we do all we can to make the roads safe but that doesn’t mean you can drive normally when weather conditions are bad.”
Still, Jamie enjoys his job, especially the way he and his colleagues work together.
“Doing shift work you get to be really close with your colleagues – there’s a strong emphasis on team work. We’re also all union members so there’s a real sense of solidarity between us.”
Jamie adds that he and his colleagues have a deep sense of duty toward the motoring public – so much so that it can be hard to turn down work when they’re called on to do so even on their days off.
“Obviously when we’re on call we have to respond but there are many times when I’m on my day off and someone needs us to come in. We are that concerned – we worry that, for example, someone will have an accident if the motorways aren’t gritted – that we’ll drop what we’re doing to work. I have to tell my supervisor that if he doesn’t want me to come on my day off he shouldn’t call me.”
Jamie says he wishes workers such as those in highway maintenance got more credit for the work that they do over Christmas.
“Doctors, firemen and policemen, nurses and others all rightly get the credit that they deserve – but sometimes I feel as though we aren’t always properly acknowledged. Hundreds of thousands of people hit the road over Christmas in the UK and it’s thanks to us that they can travel to see their families safely.”
Jamie wishes all a very happy Christmas and urges Unite members to look to the New Year as one of renewed worker solidarity.
“Let’s all stick together.”