Archived Articles - May 2016
EU REFERENDUM - 23 JUNE
25th May 2016
With less than a month to go to the Referendum on Britain's continuing participation in the European Union the campaign is hotting up and members are likely to be interested in the Union's views.
Following an extensive consultation with members and branches UNISON's governing body, the National Executive Committee, came to the view that our members' interests are best served by remaining part of the European Union.
The fear that Brexit would mean the loss of the many workplace rights - parental leave, paid holiday, protection for part-timers and limits on excessive hours - that UK employees have come to take for granted is the most important issue in the coming referendum, according to UNISON's overwhelmingly female membership.
Concern over what might happen to those employment rights should the UK vote to leave the EU was closely followed by worries about the plight of the country's public services if Britain opted to go it alone.
Further information and campaign materials can be found here.
LEARNING AT WORK WEEK
18th May 2016
UNISON believe in lifelong learning. This means that as people leave education and enter the world of work they should be able to continue to develop their skills and knowledge. This covers a wide-range of possible opportunities that might be related to your employment, for possible career advancement or just for the love of learning.
This week has been the national Learning at Work Week. As an active UNISON Branch Notts Healthcare Branch have been keen to promote this. We have run stalls and we have encouraged staff at the Healthcare Trust's Care Certificate Band 2-4 training event at Trent Vineyard to take basic skills tests and supported them to take their learning further.
One such stall was at Highbury Hospital and below is one of our reps at Highbury, Alec Peacham. Alec's holding the latest learning guide in the East Midlands. We really suggest giving it a read - there are lots of great chances to learn and learn for free! This can be found online at here.
TRADE UNION BILL - FINAL UPDATE
10th May 2016
For months UNISON has been working hard to improve the Trade Union Bill before it came into law. Regular readers will know that the Union has had serious concerns around measures tackling striking, balloting, members subs and much more.
The Bill has now made its way thorough Parliament and received Royal Assent - enacting it into law.
We are proud to say that thanks to the lobbying and campaigning efforts of thousands and thousands of trade unionists we were able to secure important changes to the Bill. Full details can be found here.
Here are some of the key highlights:
Restrictions on industrial action
The 40 per cent threshold will not apply to union members working in ancillary services which support important public services. As a result, the higher threshold will not be extended to many union members working in the private service sector.
The test for when the 40 per cent threshold applies: The government introduced a ‘reasonable belief defence’ for unions, when determining whether the 40 per cent threshold will apply. This will make it harder in some disputes for employers to secure an injunction preventing industrial action where the 40 per cent threshold has not been met.
The government will be required to commission an independent review into the use of electronic voting industrial action ballots. Ministers stated in the Commons that they were not opposed to the principle of electronic voting and would be willing to act when they are convinced that the safety concerns have been adequately addressed.
Notice period for industrial action
Unions will generally be required to provide employers with 14 days' notice of industrial action. However, the notice period can be reduced to 7 days where the employer agrees.
Expiry of ballot mandate
The proposed mandate period for ballots has been extended from four months to six months in all disputes. After this, the ballot mandate expires. Employers and unions will be able to agree to extend the period to nine months.
The government announced it would not proceed with proposals to regulate unions' use of social media during industrial action campaigns or introduce new criminal offences regulating pickets. They also decided union members should not be required to wear armbands when attending a picket-line although they will have to wear something which identifies them. Picket supervisors will not be required to show the letter of authorisation from their union to the police or members of the public.
Political fund rules
The government has accepted an amendment from the House of Lords which will limit the requirement to opt-in to new members. Existing union members will only be required to opt-in where a union establishes a political fund for the first time. Unions will be allowed a 12 month transition period to prepare for the new system.
Union members will no longer be required to renew their opt-in to political funds after five years. A one-off opt-in will be sufficient, in line with practices in Northern Ireland.
Union members will be able to opt-in or opt-out using electronic means (including online forms and emails).
Unions will be required to inform members annually about their right to opt-out from political fund contributions. Members must be notified within 8 weeks of the union submitting their annual return to the Certification Officer.
Reporting requirements on political fund expenditure
Unions will no longer be required to itemise how all political fund resources were spent and for what purpose. They will however need to report annually to the CO about political donations (including names of parties or candidates supported and total sums donated; political spending during elections, including on any publications or materials; and ongoing support for elected politicians. Unions will also be required to report on non-political campaigns and causes they have supported from the political funds.
Facilities and check-off
Check-off arrangements can remain in place in the public sector where the union makes reasonable payments to the public authority to cover the administration costs and union member have a choice how to pay their union subscriptions.
Ministers have confirmed unions would have a 12 month transition period from Royal Assent to prepare for new check-off rules and to negotiate agreements with employers.
Future regulations on facilities reporting and check-off
The reporting requirements and any cap on facilities will only apply to organisations which are listed in future regulations. This will provide unions (and employers) with increased certainty over which public authorities are covered by the regulations.
Ministers have committed to consult on draft regulations on facilities and check-off.
Reserve power to impose a cap on union facilities
Ministers' ability to impose a cap on facilities but also introduced an amendment which delayed the use of any cap on facilities by at least 3 years. Ministers stated that they would not consider imposing a cap two years' data on levels of union facilities in public authorities had been gathered. The amendment also stated that before Ministers could impose a cap they must consider the level of facilities and the costs to the public authority. This will allow Ministers to take a different approach to any cap in different parts of the public sector. Ministers should also consider any factors which may explain why the authority has a higher facilities bill - for example because the authority was under-going a major restructuring exercise.
New powers for the Certification Officer
The CO will only be able to appoint inspectors to carry out an investigation into union activities where the CO "has reasonable grounds to suspect" the union has not complied with its statutory duties
WITHDRAWAL OF THE NHS BURSARY - HAVE YOUR SAY
4th May 2016
Throughout the NHS and beyond there has been widespread dismay at plans to replace the NHS Bursary with a loan.
This change would saddle nurses with a £52,000 debt to train - even though half of their time is spent working for the NHS on training placements.
With Parliament discussing this today now is the time to act.
Full information can be found here.