Helping members find their place

International Women's Day: Unite rep Stéf Kasprowski is on a mission  

Reading time: 6 min

Every day this week on UniteLive, we’re featuring one of our many inspiring women members in the lead up to International Women’s Day on Friday (March 8).

Today, we hear from Unite rep Stéf Kasprowski who’s helping her members fight for a better deal at work.

Stéf Kasprowski is a Unite rep who managers dread dealing with because of her attention to detail and determination to help union members navigate their way through the cost of living crisis. Originally from France, she chairs both Unite’s South West regional committee and South West women’s committee as well as being secretary of her local branch.

She lives in Bradford on Avon and works as a process analyst for the University of Bath’s finance department, using her computer skills to make life easier for colleagues as well as researching information on pay, housing, travel costs and the many other problems facing workers across the South West.

Stéf has taken research by Exeter University, which starkly illustrates the issues Unite members and their families living in the South West face. Stéf uses these key facts in her drive to help Unite members. (See below).

She also points out that housing is now near the top of the political agenda, with fewer and fewer affordable properties across the country, but particularly in rural areas, even for those on above average wages. The same is true within the rental market. In Frome, Somerset you can expect to pay over £1,500 a month – a giant 50 per cent of the average salary.

Stéf says people are having to move further and further away from where they work in the search for cheaper houses to rent or buy.

“That means a long and expensive commute, especially for those who are not able to work from home,” she said.

Stéf represents Unite members ranging from university lab technicians, to electricians, plumbers and carpenters, so she sees firsthand how the cost-of-living crisis is still hurting workers from many different professions.

“We are working with the university to help staff work in a hybrid manner because of the benefits of flexible working, as well as trying to encourage car sharing, although that is difficult because not everyone works the same hours.”

Pay has been at the heart of the many disputes which have led to strikes over the past year, with university staff struggling as much as anyone because of wages failing to keep up with inflation.

Stéf says many who work in higher education, often women, often on low pay or employed on part time contracts, also claim Universal Credit. She advises Unite members on their right to claim benefits, worries about sanctions, as well as warning about one off, non-pensionable, non-consolidated pay deals.

“I try to offer signposts to workers, to at least make sure they are aware of their rights as well as the pitfalls.

“I have attention to detail, and go through everything with a fine toothcomb, so HR probably dread meeting me!”

Stéf grew up in rural north east France and says workers in the two countries face similar problems, including access to housing and healthcare, decent jobs, increased cost of goods and services and decent broadband.

Despite moving to the UK 20 years ago, Stéf has not lost her French accent, or her determination to improve the working lives of Unite members. So what’s next for Stéf in the fight against rural poverty?

“Our region needs more well-paid jobs and we welcome the arrival of companies like Tata, the parent company of Jaguar Land Rover, in Somerset who will build a new electric vehicle battery plant.

“This is great news for rural Somerset as it could create between 4,000 and 10,000 new roles.

“I hope this will bring some well-paid unionised jobs into the region. The ideal would be a transition in place so local people have the skills and opportunity to get those jobs.

“But we are also aware that there will be new families travelling to these new jobs and we must ensure that housing is affordable and fit for purpose, including schooling and healthcare provisions in these mostly rural areas.” 

Stéf is determined to succeed. “Unite needs to do what it does best – organise workers wherever they work – to make sure they don’t feel alone in their attempts to get a fair wage for the work they do. That’s why Unite is the union for rural workers and especially rural women workers.” 

Some of Stéf’s stats

  • 43 per cent of Universal Credit claimants in South West are in work – highest percentage in UK
  • 41 per cent of jobs in Torridge, Devon, pay below national living wage – second highest rate in UK
  • SW rates of child poverty after housing costs are around or above average, showing major working poor population
  • Higher than average rates of poor mental health for both children and adults
  • Fewer schools rated Good or Outstanding
  • Long travel times incurred for work of FE
  • Youth exodus – with the highest number of 16-24 year olds and highest number of students leaving anywhere in UK.

By Amanda Campbell


Unite Equalities is hosting a special International Women’s Day online event on the day after IWD – Saturday (March 9), from 10-11.30am. You can hear from more inspiring Unite women members about the difference they’re making in their workplaces. The event is open to anyone – don’t miss out. You can register to attend here.