Trade Union Facilities

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2016 National Delegate Conference
25 February 2016
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that in a fair and democratic society workers have a fundamental right to form or join an independent trade union. These rights are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Labour Organisation convention, and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Conference notes that facility time for trade union representatives has been under pressure for some time, even before the current attack by this government. A combination of ideological opposition to trade unions in some areas, and massive cuts in public sector funding, have led employers to slash facility time, and to clamp down on the use of facility time in outsourced areas.

As the amount of facility time is reduced so the pressure on existing activists and branches increases, particularly at a time when the government’s austerity budget is putting even greater pressure on activists through yet more restructuring, redundancy and outsourcing. Conference congratulates those branches which have fought back against cuts in facility time, and welcomes the campaigning, research and political work carried out at all levels of the union on this issue.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to:

1)Continue to campaign vigorously for facility time to be made available to elected representatives so that they can perform their duties;

2)Promote the benefits of facility time for workplace employment relations in the press and media and on social media;

3)Call on Service Groups to work with employers and employer umbrella groups at UK and national levels to promote the benefits of facility time, utilising model agreements where appropriate;

4)Ensure that best practice is promoted amongst UNISON branches in terms of agreements with employers for facility time.

Recognising that there is a clear and immediate problem as a result of the continuing assault on facility time Conference calls on the National Executive Council to urgently:

a)Promote the development of new activists, so that the burden on existing activists can be more evenly shared by:

i)Encouraging branches through the Joint Branch Assessment (JBA) to set realistic targets for the development of new activists;

ii)Encouraging branches to promote the use the ‘Team UNISON’ facility in ‘My UNISON’ by members to volunteer their time and talents for UNISON;

iii)Encouraging branches to have in place a mentoring system to support and develop new activists;

iv)Further developing and extending the flexible training options available, including distance and e-learning short courses, so that more new activists can access steward training more easily.

b)Encourage branches to pool resources where appropriate in order to relieve the pressure on individual activists, either through sharing work or resources as in the case of joint branch shop front/resource centre or the employment or the joint employment of staff. And to support such initiatives by ensuring that there are in place appropriate processes to enable branches working with their region can access written guidelines about how this can best be done;

c)Provide advice and support to branches on best practice in terms of both facility time agreements, including model agreements, and the allocation of facility time, in those cases where the employer agrees to provide it;

d)Investigate the usefulness and costs of providing a helpline for activists who feel that they want to talk to someone about the pressure of their work on behalf of members;

e)Keep under review the provision and use of facility time with a view to showing the benefits as part of the campaign by UNISON for the provision of facility time. Looking not only at the pressure on individual activists but also the consequences for employment relations in the workplace including the negative effects on consultation and representation;

f)Work with Labour Link to campaign to defend facility time, briefing individual elected politicians at all levels, developing model motions for councils and pushing for debates in the UK parliament and the parliaments and assemblies of the devolved nations;

g)Report progress in respect of facility time to next year’s National Delegate Conference.