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Merthyr Tydfil Politics South Wales

Five days a week trade union time for council staff set for approval

Merthyr Tydfil Civic Centre

COUNCILLORS look set to approve five days a week access for staff to carry out their trade union roles in Merthyr Tydfil.

A report to full council on Wednesday, February 21, recommends councillors approve the increase in growth for five days permanent facility time to trades unions, Unison and GMB.

Facility time is time off from someone’s job, granted by the employer, to enable a rep to carry out their trade union role.

In some cases, this can mean that the rep is fully seconded from their regular job, enabling them to work full time on trade union tasks.

It can also mean an employer allows a rep to carry out trade union duties and activities, instead of their substantive job, for a certain amount of time per week or month.

The financial cost of trades union facility time for five days a week for both Unison and GMB will be £96,630.

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The report said that all organisations were obliged to adhere to employment law and the Trade Unions and Labour Relations Act (TULRCA) 1992 sets out that all employers that recognise unions are legally obliged to consult with them as part of collective bargaining when specific types of employment issues are being changed.

In February, 2023, due to the financial budget constraints, and to support the council through the voluntary redundancy and voluntary early retirement process, full council passed a resolution agreeing the allocation of facility time through seconded full-time union officials, to comply with the Trade Unions and Labour Relations Act 1992.

Council agreed five days facility time to both Unison and GMB for a fixed six month period.

At the end of that six months and anticipating that there may still be a need to provide facility time in the next budget setting period, council agreed to continue with the five days until the end of the financial year.

The recommendation now is that the five days facility time for both trades unions is solidified into the council’s budget.

The report said that both the council and unions support the system of collective bargaining and the principle of solving employee relations problems by discussion and agreement.

It said: “All parties recognise that it is vital to good employee relations that union reps have the time and facilities to adequately represent the workforce.

“All parties recognise that time off arrangements can facilitate the resolution of issues before they escalate into more costly forms of dispute or bring lasting damage to standards of service.”

It said that by allowing facilities time, the aim was to work together to deliver the council’s aims and objectives, support the consultative and negotiation framework to ensure change is implemented fairly, at pace and to develop employment policies and practices and build positive working relationships and promote effective industrial relations.

It also aims to ensure that trade union time is used effectively and to avoid unnecessary costs in the provision and use of time and facilities, operate within the provisions of the legislation and ACAS Code of Practice on time off for trade unions duties and activities.

The report said that having consistent partnership working between the council as the employer and trades unions allows for a more efficient and effective way of dealing with employee relations matters.

Hannah Blythyn, deputy minister for social partnership in the Welsh Government, wrote to the council in December explaining the value of trades union facility time and how a social partnership approach was underpinned by the benefits of employers and trade unions working as partners in a spirit of collaboration, shared commitment and mutual respect.