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Collective grievance
Meal break changes and end of shift. 

We wish to raise a collective grievance over the imposed changes that have taken place around meal breaks and end of shift.

On 7th December 2018, concerns were raised by UNISON’s elected Branch Secretary, over a new demand surge management plan (SDMP), which had not been openly shared with UNISON or staff, and outlined negatives changes to meal breaks and end of shift.

The SDMP clearly outlined the removal of service journeys at surge 2 level, the introduction of more calls into the interruptible element of meal breaks and the removal of end of shift protection, actioned at surge level 2. There had been no consultation or discussion with elected UNISON senior staffside about these changes. No communication from the Trust had gone out to staff about the changes either.

At the meeting on 7th December, a Deputy Director was also present with the CEO.  The concerns were then reiterated in writing. On 16th December, the negative changes were actioned by the Trust.

After an existing agreement between the Trust and UNISON (this was published in NTK in January 2018, as a joint statement) was sent to the CEO, an apology was given for the removal of service journeys which was appreciated, although the other changes remain in place.

The changes to end of shift and increasing the calls in the interruptible part of meal breaks is a reneged position on an agreement put in place between UNISON and the Trust over the dispute over late finishes and meal breaks.

We also understand crews are being instructed that they can no longer restock or refuel prior to commencing their break. This goes against previous commitments given to UNISON.

If a crew needs to refuel/restock, and they are refused that opportunity prior to the commencement of their break, the Trust will not be able to deploy them until they have had their entire 45 minutes and then refuelled/restocked, potentially causing serious delays, and reducing availability for any call category. It appears though that the Trust is deploying staff directly after their 30 minutes break, rather than allowing them the interruptible period and/or allowing them to refuel/restock. This is a further negative change which shortens meal breaks and is causing staff unnecessary pressure.

We understand that the requirement to have a vehicle refuelled at the earliest opportunity and for no less than half a tank of fuel to be seen as the refuelling level came about following recommendations from serious incidents, and delays to time critical patients, due to crews not being given time to refuel.

A Director made a written commitment in 2017 to bring in IX0, to assist with late finishes, and this has not been honoured. A two day pilot over late finishes in March 2018 led to no further changes and since then the above negative changes have taken place.

The data over late finishes has not been shared with UNISON since March 2018. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) served the Trust with two improvement notices in November 2016, as a result of the lack of monitoring of working hours and part of the commitments given to the HSE was that data over late finishes would be shared openly with Senior staffside.

As well as the above changes, in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire (B&H), over the past few weeks, meal breakpoints have been moved without agreement from UNISON, to early on in the shift. This reneges on an outcome from a collective grievance in early 2016, over the exact same issue. That grievance was raised after EOC changed the meal breakpoints, to early in the shift and excluded frontline representatives from attending meetings to discuss the issue. That grievance stated:

The Trust appears to be cherry picking the representatives they wish to work with, who are all EOC based, rather than engaging with the collective at LPF, this has excluded road staff representation and is unacceptable. This also goes against the Trusts visions and values.

The recent changes in B&H to meal breaks took place following the Trust calling an LPF meeting, at short notice, which was attended by Representatives of the Trust’s choice.

It appears the Trust has brought about a divisive position allowing them to push through negative changes to staff’s working conditions, removing previous agreements and undermining grievance outcomes, by choosing the representatives they want to work with, rather than those elected by the membership.

There have been a number of emails trying to resolve the above situation to Senior management and the CEO. Those emails continually asked for the status quo to be applied and for the negative changes to be reversed.

As these issues have now been outstanding for some weeks, with commitments in writing for meetings and resolutions without any actions over status quo, we now want these issues to be dealt with as a formal grievance. As per policy, we are asking that the status quo position is applied, ie that the negative changes to meal breaks and end of shift are reversed while this formal grievance is dealt with.

In order to resolve this grievance we are asking that:
• the imposed meal break changes that have taken place are immediately reversed;
• a genuine commitment is made to openness and partnership working;
• a definitive date is provided when the missing data over late finishes will be shared, and that moving forward, the monthly reporting of this data will be provided;
• the detrimental changes outlined in the SDMP are immediately reversed;
• the commitment made to bring in IX0 and better support staff around late finishes is honoured;
• that the removal of agreements and reneging on grievance outcomes is acknowledged as unacceptable for an NHS Trust, and unwise in the middle of a staffing crisis.