Facility Time

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2015 Local Government Service Group Conference
18 February 2015
Carried as Amended

Conference notes with alarm the continuing attacks on facility time in local government over the last year. These attacks are part of a political attack on trade unions in local government.

In 2014 the Department for Communities and Local Government issued revised guidelines on data transparency, which require local authorities and fire and rescue authorities to publish a range of information on trade union reps and facility time. Conference is concerned that some local authorities are likely to implement the revised data transparency guidance even more harshly than intended.

Conference believes that facility time is fundamental to the work trade unions do. By granting facility time, employers enable trade unions to represent members with workplace concerns, develop genuine workplace partnerships, resolve local issues quickly and ensure that employees have a real voice in what happens at work. Conference believes that facility time provides excellent ‘value for money’.

Conference welcomes the work across the Local Government Service Group, at UK, Regional and branch levels, to defend facility time. This includes publishing research on its value and benefits, lobbying politicians, engaging with local media about attacks on facility time, producing and revising guidance on defending facility time, and working with Labour Link to influence Labour to defend it. There is clearly much more work that can and must be done.

Conference further believes that while attacks on facility time are a growing problem across UNISON’s different membership groups, it is most acute in relation to outsourced members. While privatisation and outsourcing are accelerating in local government, ‘core’ employers are becoming increasingly restrictive about union reps using facility time in outsourced areas.

Conference also notes concerns made clear at the 2013 and 2014 Local Government Conferences, about future support for branches whose facility time is cut. Conference notes that this matter was referred to the National Executive Council (NEC’s) Development & Organisation (D&O) Committee. The Organisation and Membership (O&M) Sub Committee of the D&O conducted a wide-ranging survey of branches, which found that following such a cut, additional sources of funding like the Regional Pool and the Fighting Fund are being under-used. Only around a quarter of branches had applied to the Regional Pool, and only around a fifth of branches had applied to the Fighting Fund, for extra resources to help the branch maintain its representation, negotiating and organising activities. Most applications were successful. Conference believes that these sources of funding should be highlighted and promoted much more.

Conference further notes that among the outcomes of the O&M’s investigation were resolutions to provide guidance to help branches ensure that facility time transfers with TUPE outsourced employers, develop organising approaches to overcoming loss of facility time, ensure Regions take account of facility time cuts when assigning Regional resources, reissue and simplify guidance on applying for the Fighting Fund and Regional Pool, facilitate pooling of branch resources and bids for funding, offer flexible and expanded training for stewards, issue advice about considering funding someone to carry out trade union work where facility time is lost, and continue to work with Labour Link to campaign for a legal right to facility time.

Conference believes that while branches should have access to as many resources as possible as they seek to overcome the problems caused by a loss of facility time, there also needs to be a strong organising response, with branches attracting an increasing number of activists, who are able to be trained and who can take some facility time and assist with representation, negotiation and organising.

Conference therefore calls on the SGE to:-

1)Continue to revise and promote existing guidance on facility time, so that it is updated in line with legislation and other government actions;

2)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;

3)Continue to share best practice between Regions and branches regarding successful campaigns to defend facility time;

4)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;

5)Work with Learning and Organising Services to ensure that the training provided on defending facility time also covers what to do once facility time is lost;

6)Work with Labour Link to lobby the Labour Group of the Local Government Association, to influence Labour-run authorities to help ensure reps in ‘core’ employers can represent outsourced members;

7)Work with Regions and branches to encourage appropriate bids to the Regional Pool and Fighting Fund, to aid branches with campaigns to defend facility time and to continue representing, negotiating and organising when facility time is lost.