The ongoing attack on local government workers across Britain took a dangerous step forward earlier this month as Lancashire County Council attempted to restrict the ability of trade unionists to represent their members.
The Tory council is planning to cut the amount of trade union reps with facility time from 12 posts to four.
This includes removing the facility time from union reps working on the equal pay job evaluation process.
The proposal from the council, seen by Socialist Worker, would undermine the ability of union reps to carry out union work. It even proposes reviewing “the groups of employees covered” by agreements between the unions and the councils.
Andy Birchall, regional TUC education officer told Socialist Worker, “This is the Tories on the front foot trying to put the unions under siege. It will stop people representing union members which makes it easier to push through attacks.
“If you don’t give reps facility time, then they can’t do things like educate themselves on employment law or meet to discuss strategy.
“There is a plan here. The Tories have let it be known that nationally they want to take the right of reps to have time off and turn it into a code of practice. That would place a ‘business needs’ proviso on any facility time which would mean the collapse of the system.”
According to Preston councillor Michael Lavalette, “This is a serious attack on trade union rights. It is vital that unions across Lancashire take this up to stop the council getting away with this.”
The way this could pan out is shown in another council document seen by Socialist Worker.
Along with the proposal is to cut facility time for union reps in the Directorate for Children and Young People, the council is also proposing to change the working conditions of workers in Lancashire Young People’s Service. The council claims that increasing flexibility “does not entail any change to current terms and conditions of employment”.
It “accepts that individual staff have limits on flexibility” but goes on to say “If staff cannot work the new patterns of work existing redeployment procedures and agreements will be utilised. This will include the final possibility of redundancy.”
The Tories are using councils as a test bed for policies they plan to bring in after the election. And reducing the effectiveness of union reps while attacking terms and conditions is all part of that plan.