Employers have been accused of “panicking” over union rep training as speculation mounts that the government will cave in to union demands on the issue at the TUC Congress next week.
Sarah Veale, head of equality and employment rights at the TUC, told Personnel Today she was hopeful that union reps would be guaranteed minimum periods of time off for training.
The government is set to report back any day on its consultation on the issue – ‘Workplace Representatives: a Review of their Facilities and Facility Time’.
A senior member of the Cabinet will speak at the congress, and employers fear mandatory time off for training will be announced to boost union support ahead of an election campaign.
“I hope we will get a result,” said Veale. “We need to persuade employers that [union rep training] is in their interests. I think there is a short-term approach employers panic because production goes down and then they won’t give reps time off.”
Veale insisted that reps needed time for training on complex workplace issues such as flexible working and health and safety law. “Where union reps work well, they will keep disputes out of tribunals – good employers recognise this,” she said.
But employers’ body the EEF told the government in its consultation response that it would be “seriously concerned” if new obligations were placed on employers. “The wide range of issues raised in the consultation document can largely be seen as examples of solutions looking for problems that do not really exist,” said the manufacturers’ organisation.
Other motions on the TUC’s agenda will call for the equal treatment of temporary workers from day one of employment, tighter regulation of gangmasters, and public sector pay rises.