Fight the Facility time attacks!

Workers in the Civil Service are facing an unprecedented attack with pensions, pay, jobs, public services and terms & conditions all under threat.  It surely can’t be coincidence that the government chooses this time to launch proposals to restrict the ability of Civil Service unions to organise in the workplace.

Under the ‘Facility Time Framework’ released by the Cabinet Office this month the ability of Civil Service reps to take paid facility time will be drastically reduced and will be restricted to a cap of 0.1% of the pay bill.  The framework states that the default position should be that paid time off will not be given for Trade Union activities; this includes:

  • union committee meetings;
  • union conference;
  • preparation for employment tribunals;
  • production of union literature including newsletters, magazines and websites;
  • circulation of literature including maintaining notice boards;
  • secretarial roles including dealing with correspondence, finance etc;
  • communication between branches; and
  • voting in union elections.

An example provided in the framework guidance states “A meeting at which representatives share their experiences with others is not in response to an issue initiated by management and demonstrates no proximity to the bargaining table.  Paid time off should not be provided.”

The 0.1% cap is applied to all paid time off for union duties and will also include the facility time of Health & Safety and Union Learning reps despite the statutory protections that these roles are supposed to enjoy.

Even the basic democratic process is threatened.  Under the framework Civil Servants who are Trade Union representatives must spend at least 50% of their time delivering their Civil Service job.  Where time is required above this figure including acting in a 100% role, this will be by exception and will need to be agreed by the Secretary of State or Chief Executive.  Representatives with over 50% facility time will be time limited and linked to the needs of that business unit, with no more than a three year period in that role.  Representatives who have already held 100% roles for more than 3 years should only be able to continue to do so for one more year. This makes a mockery of union elections if the government can mandate who can do what position and for how long.

A government survey found reps in the public sector contribute up to 100,000 unpaid hours of their own time each week, and TUC data shows 1 in 6 union reps say less than a quarter of the time they spend on union duties is paid by their employer.  For every pound spent on union facility time in the public sector, between £3 and £9 is returned in accrued benefits.  Research by the TUC, using the government’s own figures, also shows reps bring benefits to our economy worth hundreds of millions of pounds a year.

These attacks were initially proposed in parliament back in April following a orchestrated by the Taxpayers’ Alliance (TA) and the Trade Union Reform Campaign (TURC).  This country already has some of the most restrictive trade union legislation in the developed world and these additional restrictions can only be the start of an all out attack on the remaining rights of trade unions to organise against the ideologically driven neo-liberal agenda where basic workers rights must be cut to the bone.

It’s high time the wider trade union movement stepped up to the plate.  The POA and PCS motions at the TUC in September point in the right direction.  It’s now time for the TUC to name the day for a 24 hour general strike.  To this end; the National Shop Stewards Network is organising a lobby of the TUC General Council on December 11th assembling from 9.30am at Congress House in Great Russell Street.

By  EH PCS Rep.


Further info PCS report.