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From The Socialist newspaper, 27 February 2013

Resist all attacks on trade union facility time

Dave Warren, PCS rep DVLA
Dave Warren, PCS rep Swansea DVLA, takes part in the PCS National day of protest on 30 November 2012: 'Don't rip up our rights', photo R. Job

Dave Warren, PCS rep Swansea DVLA, takes part in the PCS National day of protest on 30 November 2012: 'Don't rip up our rights', photo R. Job   (Click to enlarge)

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."

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In The Socialist 27 February 2013:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Austerity... Anger... Action!

Resist all attacks on trade union facility time

The Work Programme isn't working

Will the Tories play the benefits card?

Foodbank figures reveal reality of austerity

Them & Us

International socialist news and analysis

South Africa: Big response for Workers' and Socialist Party

Italian election - Results resolve nothing

Socialist Party workplace news

Oil tanker drivers show their industrial strength

Socialists strengthened on NUT executive

London workers lobby GLA about cuts and conditions

Housing support - workers and service users under attack

Workplace news in brief

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Southampton: Councillors must fight attacks on council services

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition: building an anti-cuts electoral voice

Hull: build an unstoppable force

Campaigning against the cuts

East Midlands Ambulance Service

Marching against cuts in Coventry

Socialist Party 2013 congress

Socialist Party Scotland conference

Socialist history

45 years since the Ford Dagenham strike: women workers still fighting for decent pay

Readers' comments

Should socialists support GM foods?

A busy day in the life of a 'shirker'


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