At a time when local authorities are cutting jobs and reducing work conditions to balance budgets, UNISON reps and stewards across the country are being denied facility time with members.
Yet representation is vital if the best possible outcomes are to be negotiated for workers, local government conference heard.
School caretaker Wendy Ellis, Northern region, received a standing ovation from delegates after sharing her personal fight for union recognition.
A member of UNISON since 1996, Wendy said she was ‘privileged’ to be made lead steward in 2011 with allocated facility time to support and protect her members’ rights.
In 2016 though, the headteacher at her school tried to take away facility time. When UNISON fought this decision with Wendy, she faced intimidation and persecution at work. The case nearly went to tribunal before it collapsed and facility time was recognised.
“I know there are other people in the same position as me and other workers in need of support and protection. We need to keep fighting, keep taking them on if we are to win,” she said.
Two years ago, a motion was passed to work with Labour Link to defend facility time and to brief individual elected politicians at all levels about the importance of this issue.
At national council, it was agreed to carry out a full review of facility time arrangements in local government and to provide all possible UNISON support to any local government branch being threatened with a reduction of facility time.