12 July 2012
The proposals include eliminating or limiting 100% facility time and reducing overall facility time to half current levels, the government also aims to "review arrangements for time off for union activities so that the default is that the time is unpaid". No timetable has yet been announced for the introduction of the plans, which are subject to eight weeks' national consultation with the civil service unions, followed by departmental talks.
The government has already unquestioningly trotted out a claim that trade union reps in the civil service cost the taxpayer £36 million while completely ignoring the fact that TUC research shows for every pound spent on facility time in the public sector our economy gets back between £3 and £9.
PCS rep Sarah Allen-Melvin, 37, made the case in a Guardian Comment is Free piece on Saturday that civil service union reps make a real difference to people’s lives and save the taxpayer money.
A PCS rep in the Department for Work and Pensions has given us a snapshot of his diary entries from a week of activities showing the considerable benefits of his work to members and the employer.
8.55am Got to work and did my official job. I used my lunch and tea breaks to check my emails, including sending some out to help to organise the young members in my region.
I am currently the regional young members’ officer. Therefore I am in charge of both recruiting young people to become union reps as well as taking up their issues.
2.30pm Had a conversation with a member regarding a joint statement from the trade union and management. As a union rep our goal is to represent the needs of our members, this falls in to the category of “improving performance” as we recognise an improvement in morale means an improvement in performance.
11.30pm Had a phone call from a member I will be representing tomorrow afternoon. She was very upset so I had to calm her down as well as go through some of the facts of the case.
8.55am Started work, we had quite a busy day today and with two union reps on the team it can be a struggle, though we perform well.
1.30pm I represented a member who had been off sick. I managed to negotiate a phased return to work as the member wanted to return to work as soon as possible but had been worried that coming back so soon would create a situation where they would go off sick if they came back full time.
5.45pm Got a phone call from a member thanking me for my hard work, and giving them the confidence to come back to work sooner than they would have done without a rep.
7.15pm Just finished writing up a pro forma to be used by reps in order to streamline our work.
8:45am Checked emails from PCS before I started work.
12.15pm Lunchtime: much of the lunch hour was spent talking to members about the different issues they are facing in the lunch room as well as issues in the outside world. This particular workplace has an almost 100% membership density from a diverse background. What we particularly notice in the workplace is that many of the most hard-working members and those that have the most knowledge about the job are usually the most active members. This can be attributed to the fact that many of these members see the job as not just a source of money but as a vocation. They want to ensure that not only are they getting the best out of the job but also giving the best back, and are usually the most likely to air their concerns through the union. Usually when managers understand this their performance increases greatly.
3:15pm Tea break spent recruiting new members
1.30pm Monthly meeting with my branch where we discussed issues that are happening within the branch. We planned ways of dealing with issues and got advice from each other as to how we deal with some of them.
7pm Just got off the phone to another member who wanted to talk about a grievance they had with the employer.
7.30pm I had a look through employment law for a case I will be representing next week.
8am I sent a text to a member not only to give some bad news but also reassure them. I had been putting it off for a few days as I had been worried that the member would take the news badly but they seemed OK and thanked me for the help I had given.