Facility time in the Environment Agency

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2013 Water, Environment & Transport Service Group
25 February 2013

This conference is greatly concerned to learn of the Cabinet Office’s decision to extend its guidance on trade union facility time beyond government departments to non-departmental public bodies (NDPB’s) including the Environment Agency.

UNISON is the biggest trade union in the EA and has had a key role in securing employment policies, terms and conditions which benefit both the workforce and the Agency. Furthermore, it has been instrumental in helping the Agency to implement change programmes to help it adapt to increased workload and decreasing funding, whilst at the same time minimising job losses and impacts on members.

As the vision of Austerity Britain rolls depressingly on, it is clear that the Agency will find itself under further pressure to restructure and reduce employee numbers. It is therefore vital that UNISON’s ability to engage with and protect its members is not compromised by politically driven attacks on facility time. The guidance also contains worrying restrictions on how unions may utilise employer e-mail systems and office notice boards, which would make effective communication with members much more difficult.

The Agency itself has no issue with current facility time arrangements, and has tried to get this message through to the Government. However, it has no direct interface with Cabinet Office and can only take issue with Defra, the Agency’s parent government department.

This conference therefore calls on the Service Group Executive to continue to engage with the Government at any and all levels to

1)Strongly reinforce the message that both management and trade unions within the Agency regard the existing arrangements as both reasonable and very productive

2)Protect facility time and the existing trade union recognition agreement

3)Make it clear that it is a matter for the trade unions and the Environment Agency to decide what Agency facilities are made available for trade union communications.