“Ministers are threatening to end the practice of part-time and full-time union officials working in Whitehall departments and quangos”, reports the Financial Times (27 June).
The threatened attack is on “facility time”, the arrangement by which employers release union reps from part or all of their regular work to do union duties. The purpose is to weaken unions.
The basis of “facility time” is the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1992, which mandates employers to allow union reps time off for such things as representing members on individual grievances.
The attack on facility time being prepared by the government and in the press is clearly aimed at weakening unions.
Two points however:
"Many union branches find it difficult to fill “facility time” posts. The work is often more stressful than ordinary employment, and going on to “facility time” can damage your chances of promotion and your CV for future employment."
That may be true in some places but in others, the civil service for example, the opposite is true: being on 100% facility time as a union rep is less stressful than actually doing the job and isn't at all a barrier to promotion, in fact it's often seen as an alternative route to it.
"There is a good trade-union case for all facility time to be partial, a few days a week rather than 100%, so that all union reps regularly spend time in “ordinary” work, know what it’s like, and relate to other workers as workmates rather than as harassed officials."
This is the key point. And in unions such as PCS, it is the workers rather than those on 100% facility time who are "harassed".