Protecting facilities time for Local Officers and Reps – Why?
How do Local Officers, such as Scott and Vicky, get released to represent, consult policies and negotiate with management on behalf of members?
How do School Reps get time from their working day to attend meetings with member colleagues?
Trade union facility time and facilities are the time and resources that unions negotiate from employers so that they are able to represent members both individually and collectively in negotiations with managers. Union representatives have had a statutory right to reasonable paid time off to carry out trade union duties since 1975, and most of the current provisions come under the Trade Unions and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, introduced by the then Conservative government. Guidance on the practical application of these provisions is provided in the recently revised ACAS Code of Practice ‘Time Off for Trade Union Duties and Activities’
Union representatives are kind supportive folk but they are not volunteers. They are entitled PAID time off for a relatively tightly defined set of DUTIES – meaning they are released from their timetable for;
- Negotiating with employers
- Representing members
- Performing the duties of an accredited Health & Safety rep
- Performing the duties of an accredited Union Learning Rep (ULRs)
Union representatives also get paid time off to attend training to enable them to carry out the above duties. This training is provided by unions and the TUC
Trade union representatives carry out a range of complex and demanding activities and funding for time off allows representatives to attend meetings during the working day. Without it, meetings involving trade union representatives – disciplinary, grievance, ill health and capability meetings, flexible working request, formal or informal, and consultation meetings on changes to working arrangements – would be much more difficult to arrange.
Union representatives help to resolve issues at an early stage. If less facilities time was provided, fewer issues would be resolved informally, resulting in a significant increase in costs to schools and workload for school leaders and local authority officers. Disciplinary, grievance and capability issues would be more likely to escalate, with cases more likely to reach employment tribunals.
Research shows that involving trade union representatives effectively can help reduce dismissal and exit rates, meaning lower recruitment costs and better staff morale and productivity. It also reduces workplace-related injuries and illnesses through better health and safety standards.
The return on the investment made in trade union facility time is many times the sum spent. Research commissioned for the TUC from the University of Hertfordshire stated that for every £1 spent between £3 and £9 of benefits were accrued.
So why is it in trouble?
When all schools were maintained by the Local Authority, Facilities funds were ‘top-sliced’ from each school to pay for the release of Local Officers to represent and consult. Now, academies and Free schools can decide not to pay into a local fund (still held by the Local Authority) but have their own arrangements by releasing staff across the trust for training, representation of colleagues and negotiation at a Trust Joint Consultation Committee (JCC)
Norfolk NUT have convinced the vast majority of Trusts to pay for Local Officers to continue coming into schools and academies – they can see the benefits! However, some Trust have opted not and would prefer the ‘Reps Model’ for accessing Facilities time. The Nut want to make sure employers do not cut corners and sell Reps short. We will fight for Local Officers and Reps to have the required training and non-contact time for supporting member colleagues.
If you are interested in being a Rep, please contact Scott who can support you