Thursday, 8 January 2009

ACAS Consulation on Time Off for TU Duties


You have until 16th March to comment on the revised code of practice that will govern your new rights to time off to carry out your trade union duties.

The last amendments were made in 2003 and the consultation document offers up some useful changes e.g. the opportunity for equality and environmental reps to at least be recognised as distinct reps in their won right although the consultation document doesn't go as far as deeming them bona fide 'statutory reps'.

More controversially however is the greater recognition of non-union reps of the kind that can be appointed under the European Works Council regulations and the even more H&S slippery ones who can be appointed for the purposes of health and safety 'consultation'.

I don't need to stress the potential significance of any changes that arise from the amended code of practice and legislation that will be enacted so please do have a look ( at the consultation document and find out if your union is submitting a response as you can bet your life that the CBI, IoD and other ne'er do wells will do.

The question for this posted item is what change to the existing statutory rights would you want to see implemented?

Many thanks



Jenny Harvey said...

The recognition of non union representatives is worrying indeed. In the NHS these have not generally been countenanced, but recently HR mavericks have been floating such ideas.
In an ideal progressive labour market the statutory rights would include the right to time off to fully organise rather than focussing on meetings and buisness with the employer.
Perhaps if Trade Union work was classed as working time under the EU directive then activists wold not have to put in so many hours over and above their working week

Ian Manborde said...

Hi Jenny,

Many thanks for yor input.

Interestingly enough I have come across NHS Trusts trying to create non-union employee representatives.

One such outfit, which I shan't name to save any litigation, approached a college I have an association with and asked them to re-jig their existing ULR course to help create trust learning reps.

Naturally they were told to bugger off and I always wondered what they decided to do in the end.

That's an interesting idea to classify time spent on duties as working time. How do you think the TU bureaucrats would approach that one!



Alan said...


Although the review and consultation is welcome there is always something frustrating about the way the government goes about its work with unions.

I really dont see the point of referring to equality and environmental reps if they aren't going to get full equivalent status with other reps.

Is it solely so that they can emphasise to employers that these are not 'proper' reps and so undermine the work that they do.

Apart from frustrating the work of these reps (which I am sure many conspiracy theorists in the movement would subscribe to) what's the point?

Very similar to the totally stupid idea of doing away with the statutory duties on grievances and disciplinaries and leaving it up to employers (as in the bad old daus) to decide what they want to do.


Peter Chigana said...

Hello Ian,

God's blessings happy new year comrade.

I remember from my time in the UK the study I did around the tremendous rights that British trade union representatives had at their advantage.

If this review now a time to bring these rights back in?

I read with interest the last part of your attached report and the need for trade union representatives to work more closely with their employer.

Why would they want to do that?

This is your government's obsession with partnership.

I hope the document as is stands does not become law. Although there is some good change I do wonder at why now.

God bless.


Walton said...

Hi Ian

Here's my view on the limited role the draft Code gives ULRs:

The Draft ACAS Code of Practice 3 on time off for trade union duties and activities contains more detail on the rights and responsibilities of Union Learning Reps (ULRs) than previous versions of the Code.

Draft ACAS Code
Overall, the draft Code is disappointing, and very much reinforces the idea that ULRs are second tier union reps. The draft Code recognises ULRs role as advising union members, but makes no mention of the representative function – for instance, negotiating with an employer for a group of workers to receive paid time off for learning.

For instance, Section 1 para 13 (p.10) gives the functions for which ULRs can be allowed time off. This includes analysing learning needs, providing information and advice about learning etc.

Conspicuous by its absence is any mention of a number of representative roles that ULRs carry out in practice. For instance, under para 13, we feel the following functions should be included:

• Attending meetings of internal negotiating structures (for example lifelong learning steering groups, with the purpose of negotiating learning agreements, time off and funding for learning etc.

• Attending meetings with external partners, such as colleges and other learning providers, Sector Skills Councils and other relevant bodies.

This is reinforced in Section 2 para 23 (p.15), which deals with training for ULRs. Para 24 lists a suggested curriculum for ULR training. This is restricted to promoting and arranging learning and training. The standard TUC 5 day ULR course includes subjects such as Negotiating with Employers – it is disappointing that the draft ACAS Code hasn’t based its curriculum on what is being taught by the TUC.

In addition to the 5 day basic ULR course, a lot of work has been done to develop additional modules for ULR development, such as in Information, Advice and Guidance. While para 27 suggests that “reasonable time off should…be considered for further training”, we don’t feel this is strong enough to meet the needs of ULRs for continual development.

Section 3 para 32 deals with time off for trade union activities, and includes the right to time off to attend union meetings. However, it does not specify whether this right extends to ULRs.

Section 5 of the draft Code recommends negotiating agreements on time off. We feel this is a positive suggestion that should be taken up more widely.

Overall, the draft Code creates the impression that ULRs are second tier reps who don’t have the function of representing members in the same way that workplace reps or shop stewards do. According to the draft Code, ULRs should confine their activity to promoting and arranging courses, and advising members. We feel that this is a very limited view of the function of ULRs. It is also very dated, as the ULR role has developed substantially in practice over the last few years.

Here are some of the duties and functions carried out by Unite ULRs in practice which are not covered by the draft Code:

• Negotiating learning agreements
• Representing the learning and training needs of members on joint union/employer structures
• Negotiating with employers for paid time off for learning for members
• Negotiating with employers for the establishment of collective learning funds
• Representing members in collective bargaining around access to skills and learning
• Representing the union at Sector Skills Council meetings
• Negotiating with learning providers for shift friendly, flexible learning
• Assessing the learning needs of other union reps, conducting PDRs, and arranging appropriate training

Ian Manborde said...

Hi Walton,

Many thanks for such a clear and definitive dissection of the weaknesses within the consultation document.

Like you I am concerned that the government wishes to establish 'tiers' and reps and provide a scaling scale of rights accordingly.

I particularly find telling your final listing of the actual work of ULRs (i.e. what is needed to get the job one) against the list of rights.

Sadly the government appears to want to go down a route of restricting even further entitlement and suggesting somewhat spuriously that closer working relations with the employer is the way forward.

I look forward to seeing you on the MA in Oxford at the weekend.

Best wishes