Cuts in Trade Union facilities time – both sides of the argument
January 24, 2013 2 Comments
I have received (as has every councillor) a letter from the Southend-on-Sea Local Government Branch of Unison about the proposed cut in trade union facilities. The letter runs to five pages, and so I will not produce it in full here. Instead I reproduce the Conclusion, which seems to neatly sum up their argument.
There are many challenges ahead and there is a clear need for a consultation mechanism at all levels to implement fairly any changes the council propose. It must be therefore also be clear that this financial cap on trade union facilities will exacerbate the problems we already have in meeting requests for Unison’s presence from the employers ranging from the representation of members in individual cases to collective grievances and restructures.
Many of you, I am sure, may not agree with the current attacks on public services and believe this Government is failing the public. The erosion of trade union facilities time will not help support local services but will simply mean that proposals for cuts go without challenge and the voice of staff is not effectively heard.
Both the employers’ and trade unions’ heads of the Eastern Regional Joint Council (the joint body where employers and trade unions meet) are clear that they do not support the loss of facilities time and that attacks like these do not benefit councils in any way.
Facility time for union officials helps to ensure timely availability of representation leading to early resolution of work issues and, ultimately, better outcomes for employers, the workforce and service users. Undermining this investment will not prove productive in the long term.
I have also received the council’s response. I do not reproduce this in full either, instead choosing the Current Position as this similarly strikes me as a neat précis of the council’s position.
As part of the 2013/14 budget proposals, a further reduction of the time off for trade union duties is currently under consideration.
Following a benchmarking exercise with other authorities a reduction to £45k has been proposed. The benchmarking identified that other similar sized unitary authorities were allowing between 1.5 – 2.5 FTE and that a number of County Councils’ were allocating less than Southend. In most District councils the amounts are significantly less and tend to be agreed on an ad hoc basis with more support coming from Regional officers (employed and funded by the unions themselves)
Most Councils who responded also indicated that they are in the process of reviewing and reducing their allocations.
Reference was also made to the consultation by the Cabinet Office on trade union facility in the Civil Service. This calls for a reduction in overall facility time and for a balance to be struck between reasonable paid time off and business needs and ensuring best value for money. This consultation also includes a proposal that no employee spends less than 50% of their time delivering their substantive job.
The proposed reduction for Southend Council does not include any change to the following benefits which will continue as follows:
- Accommodation ( Unison only)
- Telephone ( Unison only)
- Use of notice boards
- Access to e-mail
- Access to intranet
- Access to space on the Council server