Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/754/16224
Resist all attacks on trade union facility time
Dave Warren, PCS rep DVLA
I work at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in Swansea where I am one of the officers of the PCS branch, one of the largest in the union. I am on 100% facility time, which means I spend all my time at work representing union members individually and collectively.
The total time allocated to all the reps in the branch, including safety reps and union learning reps, is around six full-time equivalents. This sounds a lot but with over 3,600 members it amounts to the equivalent of one full-time rep for every 600 members. Some of the reps like myself also have duties outside the branch at higher levels of the union.
The government's austerity programme means attacks on pensions, pay, jobs and terms and conditions. At DVLA we face the total closure of the Agency's local office network and also the privatisation of part of the organisation.
As part of our campaign to defend jobs and services we were on strike six times in 2012, either one-day strikes or two or three-hour walkouts.
Increasing pressure at work results in many members seeking individual help. At any given time I am dealing with 15-20 personal cases. I also get around 50 emails a day and countless phone calls in addition to the many meetings with managers, union members or colleagues. All in all, this is a very busy and demanding job.
Reps under pressure
It is no accident that at a time when the government is attacking civil servants it is also trying to restrict the effectiveness of the civil service trade unions by cutting back on facility time for reps. If the government gets its way, no union rep in the civil service will be allowed to spend more than 50% of their time on union work in future.
At DVLA we've been given notice that this will apply from 30 April. There will also be an overall cut in facility time so it will not be possible to allocate the time lost to other reps.
DVLA is now taking steps to place me in an official DVLA post. This will be a full-time post with up to a maximum of 50% time off for union work. In effect, I and others will be expected to do two full-time jobs in the time it should take to do one.
There is a clear intention here to control and put pressure on reps. Under-performance in the official job will affect performance related pay and could even lead to proceedings for inefficiency, so there will be pressure to focus on the official role at the expense of the union work. Managers will also be under pressure to put 'business needs' first and have first call on the union rep's time.
It isn't easy being a union rep these days, but the attacks will have an unexpected consequences because in a hostile environment the most determined individuals tend to step forward to take up union roles.
As John Wayne once said: "When the going gets tough, the tough gets going."
In The Socialist 27 February 2013:
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