Access to Facilities and Paid Time Off for All Trade Union Representatives

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Conference
2004 National Delegate Conference
Date
9 June 2004
Decision
Carried

Conference welcomes the government’s new employment relations bill which contains many useful proposals including the right of unions to make it possible to uphold our rule books and expel elements of the far right from union membership.

However, Conference regrets that the bill in its current form does not go far enough and leaves workers in the UK with less rights than those enjoyed in the rest of Europe. Conference is frustrated and disappointed that the government has not gone further in taking us up to international standards.

We also call for proper consultation on the bill in Northern Ireland, before it is passed by way of negative resolution, as this aspect has significantly been omitted from the piecemeal consultations to date.

Conference asserts UNISON’s full commitment to the lay member-led approach to representation in our union, ensuring representation from the shop floor upwards, and promoting equality of opportunity, equity of access to trade union positions, and principles of inclusive democracy supported by an education and training programme designed to develop members’ leadership skills.

Whilst welcoming the extension of facilities and rights to union learning representatives we believe the level of trade union rights for workplace representatives within the current ACAS guidelines on facilities for trade union representatives is inadequate and there are correspondingly unhelpful, and in some cases punitive, restrictions on trade union representation and rights contained in current employment laws.

Conference recognises the inequalities and barriers to effective representation caused by the inadequate recognition and facilities offered by many employers. In particular, the lack of fair access to paid time-off from work for internal trade union meetings, including service group meetings, prevents many groups of workers from accepting nomination for delegate posts, and/or attending meetings.

Conference also believes that the extension of time off with pay for lay union representatives with responsibility for equality is the only real and meaningful protection against discrimination and inequality in the workplace.

We note and welcome this government’s commitment to lifelong learning, and celebrate the achievements of all workers who have benefited from workplace learning opportunities. UNISON has, however, concerns which need addressing. We note the massive increase in investment in lifelong learning since 1997, and especially the introduction of the union learning fund. The 2003 skills white paper, and the additional funding announced with it, provides free learning opportunities for all adults to attain qualifications equivalent to five GCSEs at A-C grade. However Conference regrets that UNISON’s call for the right to paid time-off for learning and skills development has not been delivered in the white paper.

Crucially, the failure or refusal of many employers to provide back-fill cover for workers and union representatives at all levels whilst they are absent from work, on the whole range of legitimate training and representational activities, undermines effectiveness and inhibits workers from accepting nomination for union positions.

This is contrary to the spirit of partnership that the government professes to support.

Conference therefore calls on the government to:

1)revise the ACAS and LRA codes of practice so that trade union representatives:

a)have the right to take time off work with pay for the purpose of carrying out their duties as an official that are concerned with the industrial relations with their employer and between any associated employer and their employees;

b)have material facilities to enable them to carry out their duties;

c)with responsibility for equality have paid time off to carry out their duties

2)grant workers the right to protected pay for learning and skills development.

3)

Conference further calls upon:

1)regions to tackle employers who deny adequate time-off and facilities and refuse to recognise regional and national union training, meetings and conferences as trade union duties to be afforded paid time-off and associated rights;

2)the National Executive Council to mount a campaign in conjunction with the Campaign to Repeal the Anti-Union Laws, and other bona fide organisations, to update the law and remove those outdated and unhelpful regulations which restrict trade union rights;

3)the NEC to continue to pressure the government to legislate for the right to paid time-off for learning;

4)the UNISON Labour Link Committee to support these objectives at national level.