Reduction in the Working Week � Campaigning Across the Sectors

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2021 Virtual Special Local Government Service Group Conference
6 April 2021

Conference notes that workplace stress is a massive and growing concern in local government. As the Local Government Association states: �Research shows that work is the biggest cause of stress in people’s lives, more so than debt or financial problems. Stress can stop people performing at their best and lead to physical illness and absence.�

The austerity agenda imposed by successive Conservative and Liberal Democrat governments since 2010 has had a huge impact on the workloads and mental health of local government workers. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost, and those left in work have experienced huge increases in workloads, at a time when demand for services from the most vulnerable people in society has sky-rocketed. We have seen huge increases in workplace stress and other sickness.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on stress at work, with many workers being asked to work in situations they are not comfortable with, for example while they are clinically vulnerable, in confined workplaces where social distancing hasn�t been possible, or in areas where behaviour by members of the public can cause difficulties. And while some local government staff have been able to work at home, for many this has meant increased hours, a blurring of the lines between work and family, and a deteriorating work-life balance.

Workplace stress in local government is particularly acute among disabled members, Black members, LGBT+ members and women members, all of whom are more likely to suffer from stress.

Conference believes that in order for this situation to improve, we need an end to austerity and renewed investment in public services. But the situation could be mitigated if our members� work-life balance were improved.

UNISON members in local government have helped keep local services going by working over and above their hours, with increasing stress and mental health problems. The NJC Committee�s proposal for a reduced working week as part of the 2020 pay claim won broad support from our membership. While the ability to work from home has been welcome for many members during the pandemic, it can also lead to a blurring of the boundaries between �work� and �life�.

Conference believes that we need a broader campaign for a reduced working week across the sectors and employers covered by the service group, including private contractors and schools.

Conference calls on the Service Group Executive to launch a campaign for a reduced working week across local government, schools and associated employers, including:

1)Political lobbying and influencing, with practical ways for members to get involved;

2)Advice for the sectors, regions and branches to help them negotiate and campaign on this issue;

3)Electronic, social media and physical materials to promote support for the campaign to help the union recruit and organise around the issue;

4)A strong emphasis on the equalities issues relating to working hours.