I refer to the article in your newspaper earlier this month “Councillor attacks union official cost” where Coun Robert Light attacks time off for union representatives in the council.
Unison has in excess of 6,500 members working for Kirklees Council. It is common practice, in both the public and private sectors, to have a ratio of at least one full-time-off staff representative (union official) per 1,000 employees.
That ratio is in fact probably even lower in the private sector, ie there is often one union representative on full-time-off per 500 members. I’m sure Fox’s Biscuits (Batley) or Yorkshire Water, and dozens of other private companies have full-time-off trade union representatives (and quite rightly so).
The government has launched an all-out assault on employees. Changes to TUPE regulations (transfer of employees to other employers), the implementation of charges for employment tribunals (of over £1,000), increases in the minimum amount of service you have to have before you can claim unfair dismissal (from one year to two years) etc are all designed to make it easier for employers to dismiss/transfer employees and make it harder for individuals to defend themselves.
Coun Light is a leading light (no pun intended) representing the Government’s position (he is a Tory councillor) in the Kirklees area. I would expect him to support government policies.
But he can’t be disingenuous. He says: “It would be easier to justify if local unions were working with the council to modernise many of its out of date policies” – (translation: if trade unions “rolled over” and did what the employer/government wants, we would be happy to allow trade union time off).
That is not the role of trade unions. Their role is to fight as hard as possible to defend their members’ interests. Coun Light represents his constituents. I represent my members. They are both legitimate activities.
Councillors get support from the council (in the form of paid staff) to help them perform the role they undertake. I agree with the council providing that support and wouldn’t criticise it.
Kirklees Unison has five full-time-off trade union representatives in the council to represent its 6,500 plus members. We also employ 12 staff (paid for by the union) to support over 150 stewards in the council. Last year Unison paid over £220,000 to the council for services it provides for us. Unison are happy to do that.
Our members are, in the main, citizens of Kirklees who work, live and spend their money in Kirklees. They are not some drain on the borough. They elect Unison officials to represent and protect them.
Coun Light should come clean and say he would be happier if union members were unrepresented and emasculated, so that they would be easier to deal with.