Trade Union organised workplaces are the safest and most secure, the best employer’s recognise the value in workers having an independent voice, and a well organised union helps to improve performance by holding managers to account, scrutinising decisions and bringing forward ideas from the front line. Good employers have nothing at all to fear from a well organised Union as their interests are often shared.
The NHS is a good employer. Examples where individual Trust’s have derecognised UNISON are few and far between. It would be unprecedented for a Trust the size of EEAST to de-recognise the union and in so doing deny members their democratic voice. All NHS Trust’s are part of the family of NHS organisation, we are joined by a single set of national terms and conditions, and de-recognition would not only deprive people of a voice locally but also our ability to influence future decisions on pay and conditions. As an NHS organisation, the Trust is required to work in partnership, which goes well beyond statutory rights, and the details of this are set out in detail in NHS National terms and conditions.
The Trust issued notice to terminate the current trade union recognition agreement back in April something we criticised at the time. The current agreement has stood the test of time ensuring the union has been able to function effectively representing the interests of its members. There was no good reason in our view to end the current agreement, even though the employer has always said that they just wanted an updated agreement and not to silence the union or to lock us out of the workplace.
As we said in our joint communication last week progress has been made on a new agreement, there are still some outstanding matters to address, namely the facilities agreement and the new arrangements for how future negotiations will work, but the text of the core document is almost completed. We had intended to sign off the agreement at a meeting today (11th December) but for various reasons managers were unable to attend and the meeting was cancelled at the 11th hour. We have now written to management with a suggestion that we sign the recognition agreement immediately and return to the outstanding matters in the New Year.
We trust that the employer will now sign the agreement putting this matter behind us and moving onto more pressing issues.
Staff Forum/Late finishes
You will have seen a recent email from management inviting people to volunteer to join a staff forum to discuss the ongoing and worsening situation of late finishes. We have been saying to the Trust for some time that late finishes are a real problem, leading to unsafe working and affecting the well being of staff.
We appreciate that the Trust has challenging performance targets to meet, that service pressures are increasing, and the whole NHS is woefully underfunded, leading to handover delays. But the answer to that cannot be to make staff follow unsafe working practices or increase the stress on staff.
So far the Trust has failed to honour past agreements made, or to bring forward a new plan to deal with the problem of late finishes, their only response has been to remove all cross-border protection, remove the fixed meal breakpoint, and to stand down crews for meal breaks without telling them – and the feedback is this is taking place before the wheels of vehicles have even stopped on arrival at station.
A few crews have also been stood down while in petrol stations for their 30 minutes undisturbed (unpaid) meal break, which is causing considerable conflict with crews. The Trust has also virtually removed the last hour restricted tasking – which is the opposite to other Trusts – who are restricting the calls in the last hour further, recognising that as a sensible way to protect crews from late finishes.
We also had an email from the Exec in April, setting out a commitment to move to IX0 by June, which has not been actioned. The Trust has also withheld data on late finishes preventing us from being able to see precisely what is happening.
Despite wanting to sit down with the Trust and work through the problem, drawing on the experience of UNISON with other Trusts where improvements have been achieved, we have been unable to do so. It came as a surprise that last week without any notice the employer has organised a staff forum, that’s 12 people, all selected by the employer, based on volunteers, who will be used to help develop a solution. We have shared our unhappiness with senior managers on this, a staff forum, hand picked by the employer, accountable to no one, with no responsibility to report back outcomes, is no substitute for negotiations direct with the union. The Trust has assured us that this is not an attempt to undermine the union and that any proposals will first be discussed with us. We think it is far more important for senior managers to get on and sort this rather than playing fast and loose with the structures for consultation and negotiation.
Thank you to over 600 staff who have taken part in our recent survey over late finishes and meal breaks. If you haven’t yet given us your feedback, please take a few minutes to complete our survey
On behalf of the Branch Committee