Employers support union reps’ time off for duties

Shop
stewards and other union representatives typically take about one day off work
a week to attend to union business, according to research published in IRS
Employment Review. 

Although
more than eight in 10 employers who recognise unions have a formal, written
facilities agreement with one of more unions, IRS reports time used for union
activities can vary enormously.

The
key findings of the research 
conducted in November 2002 – are based on 39 responses from HR managers across
the private, public and voluntary sectors. Other findings include: 


Each lay representative in British workplaces is estimated to be responsible
for an average of 28 union members.


A joint consultative committee is the most common form of employee
representation among non-unionised firms. 
In total, 16 respondents operate these structures, including some
employers who also recognise unions, Works councils operate in six
organisations and two employers run company councils. 


Union Learning Reps (URLs)  Just five employers
have made any specific plans or provisions for the forthcoming statutory status
for ULRs.  The Abbey National Group is
working with the union ANGU to handle implementation of arrangements for the
new learning reps.


Facilities available to union representatives at work (by rank)


E-mail – widespread use – cited by organisations.


Telephone 


Dedicated office space


Own office space


What do union reps do with their time? Activities include: pay negotiations,
representing workers, training, advising individuals, attending conferences,
meetings on partnerships, meetings and consultations.


How do organisations cover for time taken off by union reps?


Fourteen employers report that other workers absorb representatives’ work with
no extra payment.  In 13 cases the union
reps manage to complete their work in the reduced time available.  Eight employers use overtime payments, five
use temporary or freelance cover while three use secondments.

Managing
editor of IRS Employment Review, Mark Crail, said: “There has been a change in
the industrial relations climate over the past two years, and trade unions have
taken on greater importance in the workplace thanks to changes in employment
law since the Labour government came to power.

"Our
research shows that employers are meeting their statutory duty to allow union
reps reasonable time off for their duties – and that some are going further
towards recognising the constructive role that unions can play.

"With
further legal changes planned, union reps are likely to be busy over the coming
months, advising and representing their members, and talking to employers on a
range of issues.”

By Ben Willmott

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