‘We must fight for facility time – for our members and for our services’

UNISON president Eric Roberts tells TUC unions must make the case for a system which gets better outcomes for union members and employers

“We have to keep up the fight and keep making the case for the importance of our facility time – for our members and for the services we provide,” UNISON president Eric Robert Roberts told TUC delegates in Brighton this afternoon.

Supporting a motion on defending facility time submitted by the National Association of Head Teachers, Mr Roberts noted that “it has always been difficult to get union representatives in schools and other education institutions.

“Members are dedicated to their job and classroom-based staff are working at full tilt from the start until the end of the school day, with few breaks and often interrupted lunch hours,” he noted.

And he told the Congress that this was a particular problem for school support staff, many of whom “are on atypical contracts, work part time and have a series of jobs to make ends meet”.

Mr Roberts noted that “historically UNISON has provided support for school staff from our local government branches” and “our representatives help avoid conflict and get better outcomes, both for members and for the schools that they work in”.

But an increasingly fragmented employer landscape, particularly in England, “the ability of unions to organise in schools is becoming harder,” he warned.