Unison: Move is ‘dog-whistle politics’ of Tory bigwig Eric Pickles
A London council informed union reps yesterday that pay for the facility time spent representing their colleagues would be axed with immediate effect.
Union representatives in public services are, by tradition and agreement, allowed time during working hours to carry out vital work on issues such as health and safety, representing members in difficulty and negotiating settlements when disputes arise.
But Tory-run Bromley Borough Council told representatives from the Unite and Unison unions that facility time payments would end immediately due to local budget cuts — sparking fears that other councils across the country could follow suit, starting with Barnet Council in north London.
Unison branch secretary Glenn Kelly believes the move was politically motivated, coming at a time when the authority is seeking outsource services wholesale to the private sector.
“This is a political move at a time when we are facing the biggest attack on jobs, pay and conditions in recent memory,” he told the Star.
“The council is seeking to reduce the in-house workforce from 3,000 to 300 and cut wages and conditions.
“It is the dog-whistle politics of [Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric] Pickles and the Taxpayers Alliance.”
Mr Pickles and his fellow rightwingers have long called for facility time to be scrapped.
In November, the Communities Secretary introduced new rules which force councils to disclose how much they spend on facility time as part of the Tories’ rabidly anti-union agenda.
Mr Kelly, who was previously paid 18 hours facility time per week to carry out essential union duties, remained defiant and revealed that the decision was made without consultation.
“Legally the council still have to release me as required to carry out my rep duties,” he said. “They can’t avoid their legal obligations.
“If they think we’re going to go away they’ve got another thing coming. If the council sticks by its position, we will go to our members and ask them to support us in a campaign to have facility time reinstated.”
Bromley Borough Council did not respond to requests for comment at the time of going to press.