HUNDREDS of council and school workers in Merthyr Tydfil will have their access to a union representative slashed, a trade union has claimed.
Unison said Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council is cutting the amount of time staff can spend with union reps under plans due to come into force on Friday, October 13.
Unison added the move will affect 660 workers represented by public services union Unison Cymru/Wales.
Over the last six months, Unison said its representatives in Merthyr Tydfil council have dealt with queries on everything from bullying to sexual harassment and now the council is cutting access to union reps from five days to two a week.
A Unison representative said the cuts would make it more difficult for HR officers to arrange disciplinary investigations and hearings.
He warned the cuts would also mean reps would have to be retrained and added: “We often deal with a lot of matters before they get escalated to the formal stage by meeting with managers on an informal basis.”
A Merthyr Tydfil council worker said: “I don’t believe reducing the presence and availability of Unison in Merthyr civic centre would benefit the workers.
“Where our employers have not supported our well-being and rights, it is essential that easy access to those who do is maintained.”
Unison highlighted that earlier this year the Welsh Government enshrined union relations in law with a social partnership act intended to place trade unions at the heart of decision making over public services.
Unison Cymru/Wales regional organiser Carmen Bezzina said: “Union reps provide vital support for workers across Wales. It is appalling this support is now being taken away from staff at Merthyr council. Unison is fully opposed to this and is calling for the upcoming cut to be suspended.
“The decision by the local authority to withdraw this support is not in the spirit of social partnership, a way of working we’ve had in Wales for some time which will only be strengthened when the social partnership act comes into force.”
The leader of the council Councillor Geraint Thomas responded by saying: “In February 2023, due to the financial budget constraints, and to support the organisation through the voluntary redundancy and voluntary early retirement process, council passed a resolution to put in place trades unions facility time in order 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 this fixed term contract and anticipating there may still be a need for the provision full-time, officers made a recommendation to cabinet to continue with the agreed five days until the end of the financial year, in order to support the council through the next budget setting period.
“Cabinet reviewed the recommendations and concluded that two days per week per union facility time was adequate. This was as a result of the council’s current financial position and with a view to the organisation having to find significant savings to balance the budget.
“To approve the financial growth expenditure for the two days per week of facility time, a report will have to be taken to the next full council meeting on November 8, 2023 for approval.
“Working in partnership with the relevant trades unions remains a priority for the council and we will continue to do this to ensure that we provide our staff with efficient and effective employee relation support.”