- All members are asked to take simple steps to defend their right to the union rep of their choice
- Reps can help you submit grievances if statutory time for your chosen rep is denied
PCS members may be aware that Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude is actively trying to curtail the time trade union reps have to represent you in work, commonly known as ‘facility time.’
Facility time is often misrepresented in the media and by Ministers as paid time for union reps to plot strikes. In fact, what it actually covers is everything from accompanying you in meetings with management, preparing grievances, giving advice, performing health and safety inspections or accident investigations, and negotiating on your behalf senior management.
The fact that it often prevents strikes and industrial disputes is one of the many reasons that a TUC report found it had a net financial benefit to businesses which recognised unions.
The restrictions imposed by the Cabinet Office are based on the idea that facility time cannot account for more than 0.1% of the pay bill. To put this in context, this amounts to less time per member in a year than we are given quarterly to attend the Building Our Future workshops!
In addition, the leaked document detailing HMRC’s plans to marginalise PCS included plans to restrict reps’ facility time as a way to curtail the union’s organising capacity.
This issue has very recently come to a head with branches being given an extremely restrictive allocation of time. So restrictive, in fact, that no sooner than we received it were your reps in this branch told that they had used their allocation and a significant number were pulled into meetings and advised that they have to stop performing their duties and representing you.
Reps do an awful lot of work in our own time as well. But paid time off to carry out certain duties is not only necessary to ensure that you get adequate representation both individually and collectively, it is also clearly defined in law.
Support us in supporting you
As a member of PCS, you have the right to be represented. This includes the right to be accompanied at disciplinary and grievance hearings by the union rep of your choice. Therefore restrictions on reps’ facility time are ultimately a breach of your rights as a union member.
Your right to be represented is neither defined nor restricted by the employer’s allocation of facility time. If you want a certain rep to represent you, then HMRC has a legal duty to allow them to do so. We are asking you to take a couple of small, easy steps to defend that right.
When you seek representation, your rep will ask you to request statutory time for them. This is a simple matter of sending a pro-forma which the rep will provide by email. If the request is denied, you should submit a grievance on the basis that your rights under the Employment Relations Act 1999 have been breached. Again, your rep will help you to do this.
The law is on our side in this matter. But as ever the key factor is our willingness to stand together. We ask all members to support us as we defend the right to support you at work.