UNISON says it’s “make or break” over facility time attacks

ThatcherThe Tories’ renewed attack on trade unions is leading to a make or break battle over facility time, delegates at UNISON’s local government conference in Glasgow heard yesterday.

“This is the crucial and defining issue for trade union organising,” said service group executive member Alison MacCorquodale.

“The pressure on facility time was already a major challenge before the election. With the election of a Tory majority government we are now facing a crisis,” she said.

“We have a government that wants to attack facility time because it wants to attack trade unions. It’s not about saving money, it’s about breaking us, because we are a threat.

“Our branches are experiencing a wave of attacks,” she added. “Cuts in facility time have been relentless, with local authorities using austerity as a justification.”

John Burgess, chair of Barnet branch, told delegates that last year Barnet council announced its plans to replace facility time with ad hoc arrangements.

“We were faced with zero facility time. We had a choice – fight or give up. We fought and we won which is why we are here today.”

Mr Burgess added that councils were “coming after collective agreements” in the public sector. “They want to finish what Thatcher started. That’s why we can’t afford to lose our ability to defend our members.”

A member from Bromley branch told delegates that the council had recently voted to end its 40-year-old arrangement for facility time – ending all facility time and forcing the branch chair to return to his job.

“The council is on the road to making millions of pounds of cuts, with privatisations and attacks on workers’ pay. The only thing standing in its way are trade unions. But the council wants to break our right to fight back.”

It was noted that the issue is most acute in relation to outsourced members, with ‘core’ employers becoming increasingly restrictive about union reps using facility time in outsourced areas.

Delegates charged the service group executive to:

  • Continue to revise and promote guidance on facility time, so that is it updated in line with legislation;
  • Work with regions and branches to highlight attacks on facility time in the local press and media, making clear the potential damage that could be done to services;
  • Continue to share best practice between regions and branches regarding successful campaigns to defend facility time;
  • Ensure that the union’s guidance on TUPE includes clear direction to negotiate for reps in ‘core’ employers to be able to represent outsourced workers following transfer;
  • Work to ensure that that reps in ‘core’ employers can represent outsourced members;
  • Ensure that training provided on defending facility time also covers what to do once facility time is lost;
  • Give full backing to branches seeking to take industrial action to defend facility time.
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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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