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Public Consultation On EU – Mexico Trade Agreement

UnknownWe are requesting our supporters to participate in the online public consultation launched by the European Commission on the re-negotiation of the EU РMexico Free Trade Agreement (online in English only here)

The deadline for the consultation is 31st August 2015. 

This agreement will have a significant impact on workers in both the European Union and Mexico, especially in conjunction with the EU РCanada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) which has already been negotiated and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which is in negotiation.

Independent unions in Mexico, Global Unions and the ITUC have identified many serious violations of core labour rights in Mexico. ¬†The most serious of these are the practice of “protection contracts” – collective agreements signed between an employer and an employer-dominated union, often without the knowledge of the workers – and the institution of Labor Boards that are subject to corruption and manipulation by employers and employer-dominated unions. ¬†

The ILO Committee on Freedom of Association and Committee of Experts have drawn attention to these problems.

Below is a short summary of key issues that can be pasted into the online survey on pages 23-24 РFor Mexico: Social issues and labour rights РCore labour standards. If negatively impacted, how could these impacts be mitigated?
We suggest you insert the following text:

Mexico must:

‚Ė† Enact constitutional reforms to eliminate the corrupt Conciliation and Arbitration Boards at the state and federal level, replacing them with labor judges who are independent from the executive power.

‚Ė† Make all collective bargaining agreements and union registrations public and transparent at the federal and state level, requiring employers to provide each worker a hard copy of his or her collective bargaining agreement and the basic documents of the union that represents that worker.

‚Ė† Make it illegal to file (depositar) a collective bargaining agreement that has not
been ratified by a majority of the workers covered by that agreement.

‚Ė† Make the union election (recuento) process more transparent and effective, establishing fixed dates for stages in the process and stipulating that objections are to be resolved after the election is held.

‚Ė† Eliminate the requirement of union certification (toma de nota) which is used to control and limit the legal existence of unions.

‚Ė† Ratify and implement ILO Convention 98 on the right to organize and collective bargaining.

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Updated: Independent watchdog slams government trade union proposals as ‚Äúnot fit for purpose‚ÄĚ

CM_vUDSWoAAGXpGThe Regulatory Policy Committee ‚Äď an independent body appointed by the government which verifies the costs and savings of proposed changes to businesses and civil society ‚Äď has today (Friday) slammed the government‚Äôs trade union proposals impact assessments as ‚ÄúRed ‚Äď not fit for purpose‚ÄĚ.

The RPC found that the government had not made the case for any changes in the law on trade union picketing and protest ‚Äď including proposals to make unions give 14 days‚Äô advance notice of whether their members will use Twitter or Facebook during protests. (See above)

They said that ‚Äėthere is little evidence presented that there will be any significant benefits arising from this proposal‚Äô and ‘the definition of the problem currently appears weak and must be substantiated’.

killthebill badgeOn agency workers being allowed to replace striking workers, the RPC found that the government’s impact assessment undermines its own central assumption, as ‘it provides reasons why it might be more beneficial to the employer to take the short-term costs associated with a strike instead of seeking temporary workers’.

And the RPC suggested that the government had been too hasty in pushing through their proposals, and called on the government to consult further ‚Äď including specifically with those unions and employers affected by the additional 40 per cent threshold requirement for industrial action.

TUC General Secretary¬†Frances O‚ÄôGrady¬†said ‚ÄúThe government‚Äôs trade union bill threatens the basic right to strike ‚Äď and it‚Äôs being rammed through with unseemly haste, without a proper case being made.

‚ÄúWe‚Äôre pleased that the Regulatory Policy Committee has exposed the lack of consultation and the unfair imposition of excessive red tape on unions and employers. This is an opportunity for the government to take a step back, recognise that they were wrong, and drop these proposals which threaten the democratic right to strike.‚Ä̬†

Download the RPC’s comments here:

Ballot thresholds in important public services

RPC opinion

Impact assessment

Hiring agency staff during strike action

RPC opinion

Impact assessment

Tackling intimidation of non-striking staff

RPC opinion

Impact assessment

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TUC: Protect The Right To Strike

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Trade Union Bill Not Backed By Evidence

killthebill badgeLetter in The Guardian, August 17th.

As academics in the field of industrial relations, we express our concern at the draconian provisions of the trade union bill which amount to the most sustained attack on trade union and workers’ rights since the Combination laws of the early 19th century. In addition to minimum thresholds that seriously curtail the possibility of legitimate strike action, the bill also attacks the ability of unions to represent their members (via facility time) and raise subscriptions (through employer check-off) from members, among a battery of other restrictive measures.

The rationale for the bill is perverse. Trade unions in Britain are not too strong, but too weak. They provide an important voice for the expression and protection of workers’ terms and conditions of employment, and are a countervailing force against the excesses of employer power. They can also contribute to innovation, skills-upgrading and workplace performance. Given the fact the UK labour market is already one of the most flexible and least regulated in the global economy, evidence in support of the benefits of the bill is seriously wanting.

By further undermining the collective bargaining power of unions it will feed into the labour market by increasing endemic low pay and insecure terms and conditions of employment among non-unionised workers.

Instead, the government should be looking more seriously at how to engage and involve the British workforce and its representatives in rebuilding the UK economy and raising productivity through fairer and more supportive rights for workers.

Professor Mark Stuart President, British Universities Industrial Relations Association, University of Leeds 
Professor Ralph Darlington Salford Business School, University of Salford 
Professor Jane Holgate, Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change, Leeds University Business School
Professor Philip Taylor Vice dean, Strathclyde Business School 
Professor Keith Ewing Professor of public law, Kings College London 
Professor Edmund Heery Professor of employment relations, Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University 
Professor Stephanie Tailby Centre for Employment Studies Research, University of the West of England
Professor Miguel Martinez Lucio Manchester University Business School 
Professor Steve Vincent Head of leadership, work and organisations, Newcastle University Business School 
Dr Stephen Mustchin University of Manchester
Dr Andrew Smith Bradford University School of Management
Professor Hazel Conley Centre for Employment Studies Research (CESR), Faculty of Business and Law, University of the West of England 
Dr Daniel King Nottingham Trent University 
Professor Sonia McKay Visiting professor, Faculty of Business and Law, University of the West of England
Professor Stephen Bach Department of Management, King’s College London 
Professor Tony Dundon School of Business and Economics, National University of Ireland Galway 
Dr Sophie Gamwell Middlesex University 
Dave Smith TUC tutor, College of North East London 
Professor Gregor Gall Professor of industrial relations, School of Management, University of Bradford 
Professor Geraldine Healy Queen Mary University of London 
Dr Peter Scott Senior lecturer in employment relations, University of Portsmouth
Dr Ioulia Bessa Leeds University Business School 
Dr Eugene Hickland National University of Ireland Galway 
Dr Douglas Martin University of Central Lancashire 
Dr Judie Gannon Oxford Brookes University 
Dr Jo McBride Newcastle University Business School 
Professor Stephen Linstead Director, Centre for the Study of Working Lives, York Management School, University of York 
Dr Ian Roper Associate professor, Middlesex University 
Dr Jo Grady University of Leicester 
Dr Marco Hauptmeier Reader in comparative employment relations, Cardiff University 
David Wray Senior visiting research fellow, University of Hertfordshire Business School 
Dr Anna Paraskevopoulou Working Lives Research Institute, London Metropolitan University 
Dr Ian Greenwood Leeds University Business School 
Professor Melanie Simms School of Management, University of Leicester
Dr Tessa Wright School of Business and Management, Queen Mary University of London 
Dr Steve Williams Reader in employment relations, University of Portsmouth 
Dr Anthony McDonnell Reader in management, Queen’s University Belfast 
Dr Zinovijus Ciupiijus Leeds University Business School 
Dr Priscilla Ross Co-operative College 
Dr Vera Trappmann Leeds University Business School 
Caroline Holmes Programme coordinator BA international labour and trade unions studies, Ruskin College, Oxford 
Dr Stewart Johnstone Newcastle University 
Professor Greg Bamber Visiting professor, Newcastle University Business School 
Dr Graham Symon Principal lecturer in human resources and organisational behaviour, University of Greenwich 
Dr Zedias Mutema Staffordshire University 
John Kimberley Associate professor, Birmingham City University Business School 
Professor Andreas Bieler Professor of political economy, School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham 
Dr Elizabeth Lawrence Principal lecturer in sociology, Sheffield Hallam University 
Professor Jim Arrowsmith Associate fellow, Industrial Relations Research Unit, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick 
Dr Paul Smith Honorary research fellow, Keele University 
Sue Ledwith Emerita scholar international labour and trade union studies, Ruskin College 
Professor Linda Clarke Centre for the Study of the Production of the Built Environment (ProBE), University of Westminster 
Professor Ian Greer University of Greenwich Business School 
Dr Kate Hardy Leeds University Business School 
Dr Fernando Duran-Palma Westminster Business School, University of Westminster 
Professor Damian Grimshaw Professor of employment studies, Manchester Business School, University of Manchester; and director, European Work and Employment Research Centre 
Dr Anne McBride Senior lecturer in employment studies, Manchester Business School, University of Manchester 
Dr Deborah Dean Industrial Relations Research Unit, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick 
Professor Chris Forde Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change, Leeds University Business School 
Chris McLachlan Postgraduate researcher, Leeds University Business School 
Andy Charlwood Professor of human resource management, School of Business and Economics, Loughborough University
Dr Susan Sayce Senior lecturer, University of East Anglia 
Dr Alf Crossman Surrey Business School, University of Surrey 
Jane Lethbridge Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU), University of Greenwich 
Cecilie Bingham Principal lecturer in employee relations, University of Westminster 
Duncan Adam Industrial Relations Research Unit Warwick Business School
Professor Phil Almond Professor of comparative employment relations, De Montford University 
Dr Andreas Kornelakis Lecturer in human resource management, School of Business, Management & Economics University of Sussex 
Katy Huxley Research Officer, Cardiff University 
Professor Anne-marie Greene De Montfort University 
Dr Whyeda Gill-Mclure University of Wolverhampton Business School 
Dr Scott Hurrell Lecturer in work and employment studies, University of Stirling 
Dr Alan Tuckman Centre for Industrial Relations, University of Keele 
Alex J Wood Research associate, Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge 
Professor Gill Kirton School of Business and Management, Queen Mary University of London 
Professor Tony Elger Emeritus professor, Sociology of Work and Employment, University of Warwick 
Dr Jacqueline Sinclair School of Business, University College Dublin 
Dr Aristea Koukiadaki University of Manchester 
Professor Richard Hyman Editor, European Journal of Industrial Relations 
Dr Mike Hemmings Doncaster College and University Centre 
Professor Michael Gold School of Management, Royal Holloway University of London 
Dr Stefania Marino University of Manchester 
Dr Nick Parsons Cardiff University 
Dr Mike Rigby London South Bank University 
Dr Andrew Perchard Senior research fellow, Centre for Business in Society, Coventry University 
Professor Francis Green Professor of work and education economics, University College London 
Paul Brook Editor, Work, Employment and Society journal, University of Leicester 
Emeritus Professor Doug Miller University of Northumbria 
Martin Upchurch Professor of international employment relations, Middlesex University Business School 
Professor Philip B Whyman Director, Lancashire Institute for Economic and Business Research, Lancashire Business School 
Dr Steve Davies School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University 
Professor Kim Hoque Warwick Business School 
Professor Peter Turnbull Professor of HRM & labour relations, Cardiff Business School, University of Cardiff 
Dr Mick McKeown Reader in democratic mental health, University of Central Lancashire 
Zander Wedderburn Professor emeritus, Heriot-Watt University 
Chrissie Oldfield Senior lecturer in employment relations, London South Bank University 
Professor Geoffrey Wood Dean of Essex Business School, University of Essex 
Professor John Kelly Birkbeck, University of London 
Dr Peter Prowse Senior lecturer in HRM and Employment Relations, Bradford University School of Management 
Dr Susan Milner University of Bath 
Dr Ed Blissett Senior lecturer in employment relations, University of Hertfordshire 
Professor Michael Doherty Department of Law, Maynooth University, Ireland 
Dr Jonathan Lord Director of Employability International Strategy, People Management, and Salford Law Unit 
Roger Seifert Professor of Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations, Management Research Centre, Wolverhampton Business School 
Sian Moore Professor of Work and Employment Relations; Co-Director, Centre for Employment Studies Research (CESR), Bristol Business School, University of the West of England 
Dennis Nickson Professor of service work and employment; Academic fellow, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (Academic FCIPD); Editor-in-chief, Employee Relations, Department of Human Resource Management, University of Strathclyde 
Dr Maria Koumenta Business School, Queen Mary University of London 
Christine Edwards Professor emeritus, Department of Management, Kingston University
Dr Steve French Keele Management School, Keele University 
Connie Nolan Senior lecturer, Canterbury Christ Church University

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Think Tank Says TTIP Gains Are ‘Vastly Exaggerated’

A newly issued brief from the US based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) examines widely cited studies on the potential gains from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and finds that they would deliver just 40 cents per person per day in the U.S., and 0.2 euros per person per day in the EU.

Supporters of the deal between the U.S. and EU have touted the supposed gains, but the CEPR brief notes that these gains would easily be dwarfed by losses the great majority of workers would experience due to increased inequality, and also that the original studies did not examine the costs from protections for pharmaceuticals and other non-tariff barriers (NTB).

‚ÄúThe projected gains from the proposed TTIP would be so small that it would take 38 TTIPs to make up for the long- term damage the U.S. economy has suffered over the last decade,‚ÄĚ CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said.

The brief, by economist David Rosnick, looks at a widely cited study by the Centre for Economic Policy Research in London, England (not affiliated with the D.C.-based CEPR).

The London-based CEPR study estimates that by 2025, under an ‚Äúambitious‚ÄĚ scenario, the TTIP would increase – on average – U.S. consumption by today‚Äôs equivalent of about 20-40 cents per person per day; and by 0.1 – 0.2 euros per person per day in the EU.

Tariff reductions under the TTIP, according to the London-based CEPR, ‚Äúwould increase U.S. GDP by only 0.04 percent by 2027,‚ÄĚ Rosnick notes ‚Äď ‚Äúraising consumption by a bit more than $1 per person per month.‚ÄĚ

The London-based CEPR’s projections for these small gains come in part from its significant underestimating of the costs from patent protections for pharmaceuticals, copyright enforcement and other protections under the TTIP that could increase the price of a product by thousands, or tens of thousands, of percent.

Rosnick‚Äôs brief also points out that the London-based CEPR includes ‚Äúindirect spillover effects‚ÄĚ ‚Äď ‚Äúexplicitly counting gains that go beyond the scope of the agreement‚ÄĚ in order to project the gains from the TTIP that it does.

‚ÄúThis, in combination with a blind eye toward patents and copyrights, suggests that the study overestimates the potential gains from the TTIP‚ÄĒthough perhaps no more so than similar studies,‚ÄĚ Rosnick states.

‚ÄúAs with similar projections made for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the small gains most U.S. and EU workers would see from the agreement would be dwarfed by the effects of increased inequality that would result from the TTIP,‚ÄĚ Rosnick said.

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Tory Party Conference March & Rally

oct4demo-masthead_0Sunday 4 October ‚Äst ‚ÄúNo to austerity, yes to workers‚Äô rights‚ÄĚ

On Sunday 4th October, the Conservative party will open their annual conference in Manchester. After five years of austerity, falling living standards, pay freezes and huge cuts to public services, a new parliament won’t offer a fresh start to working people and their families. The Conservatives’ new plan is an old plan Рback to the future with  more of the same.

We were told that austerity measures were a necessary, short, sharp dose of medicine . But five years later, the prescription is the still same. More plans to privatise public services, like the NHS. The government telling hardworking people, like midwives, teachers and transport workers, that they must work harder and longer. Public servants’ pay frozen for 4 more years.  Threats to jobs in the public sector. Plans to sell off social housing. Cutting tax credits, disability benefits and help with the rent. Unfair targeting of young people.

Trade  unions have a proud tradition of standing up for workers, their families and the services everyone uses. So now the government is threatening the right to strike.

In  the trade union bill, they propose to make it harder for unions to take strike action to oppose their cuts. They want to make it harder for workers to speak out Рallowing employers to use agency workers to break strikes and putting huge restrictions on pickets and protests. In short, they want to silence millions of union members and threaten their right to strike.

So we all need to speak out now. March in Manchester on Sunday 4 October and tell the Conservatives¬† that we say ‚ÄúNo!‚ÄĚ to austerity. And tell them that workers need a voice. That trade unions give workers a voice. And that instead of austerity, it‚Äôs a resounding ‚ÄúYes!‚ÄĚ to workers‚Äô rights.

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Mexico And The Free Trade Debate

Napoleon Gomez, the head of Mexico's metals and mining union, Los Mineros

Napoleon Gomez, the head of Mexico’s metals and mining union, Los Mineros

By Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, President of the Mexican Metal and Mineworkers Union, Los Mineros.

When the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect on the first of January 1994, during the government of Carlos Salinas de Gortari, the promises and expectations contradicted most of the reality that we now know 20 years later. Now it is clearer than ever that this project signed between the United States, Mexico and Canada sought to expand and protect the interests of large multinational corporations, at the cost of employment, poverty and marginalization that have been the most obvious expression of a market economy model that failed in its intended aim of generating more opportunities, free trade and development for our countries.

On the contrary, measured in terms of economic and social welfare, inequality and therefore the exploitation of labor increased, while the distribution of wealth has deteriorated reaching truly alarming levels for the future of society. In those 20 years under NAFTA, official data show that the United States has lost about 5 million jobs in manufacturing and almost 57000 companies closed.

Something similar happened in Canada and  Mexico not been able to recover the lost jobs, nor exceed the minimum level of one million jobs per year. Many of the enterprises of the most developed nations have moved to countries with lower wages where freedom of association and collective bargaining are suppressed.

A clear example of this problem is the behavior of the most outstanding corporation, Apple, which has 40,000 jobs in the United States and more than 700,000 in other countries, following a strategy of taking advantage of scale, flexibility, effort and worker skills that factories in the United States are no longer able to match, in the words of a senior executive.

The NAFTA experience raises concerns about the future of our country and the other 11 nations that plan to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement in September. The main concern that exists today in the U.S. Congress is that Mexico, with the lowest wages in Latin America and important limits on labor rights, will take production facilities and manufacturing jobs from its northern neighbours.

It is in this context that Congressman Sander Levin, Democratic leader in the key Committee on Ways and Means, has studied the situation and has generated a lot of debate about the violation of labor and human rights in Mexico and widespread concern this contributes to favor corporate power that only seeks to maximize profits at any cost.

This healthy demand by Congressman Levin is supported by the chief economist at the Department of Labor of the United States until September 2012, Betsey Stevenson, who said:¬†‚ÄúCompanies once felt an obligation to support American workers, even when it wasn‚Äôt the best financial choice. That‚Äôs disappeared. Profits and efficiency have trumped generosity.‚ÄĚ

The free trade agreements have not won respect for labour rights. Hence the complaint that independent unions in Mexico have presented to the ILO against employer protection contracts and violations of freedom of association and collective bargaining in Mexico, which have contributed to the debate and led to the demand by the world’s most important international body on labor matters world’s that the Mexican government immediately publish union registration and statutes and comply with Convention 87 concerning freedom of association.

The clearest example of these violations, and the greatest obstacle, is the practice of “protection contracts” that some unions sign with companies behind the backs of workers and with the acquiescence and approval and of the labor authorities in their registration.

A clear case is that of the automobile industry, a sector in which the CTM has 95 percent of the contracts and where wages have lagged far behind those obtained in the United States or Canada, where a worker earns between 40 and 60 dollars per hour, while in Mexico they average about 10 dollars a day, performing the same tasks and using the same machinery.

Professor Harley Shaiken, director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, who is a student of NAFTA, has noted that in Mexico the increase in productivity in manufacturing is accompanied by lower wages. Professor Shaiken’s research has shown that the situation has deteriorated between 1993 and 2011, as real wages of Mexican workers fell 20 percent while productivity increased by 80 percent.

In the negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement, (TPP) the Mexican government is pushing to expand the rules of origin in the automotive industry from 62.5 percent in NAFTA to 65 percent in the TPP. That position is positive and should be accompanied by measures that have been taken to curb subsidized imports of steel from China, because it would be paradoxical and regrettable that Japanese companies produce cars in Mexico with Chinese steel.

Along with these efforts should come the replacement of Conciliation and Arbitration Boards with labor courts and the elimination of the requirement for government certification of union elections (toma de nota).  If labor and trade strategies do not change at the same time, the justice and equity that not only Mexican workers but the entire population are seeking cannot be achieved.

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Paraguayan Bus Workers Fired For Forming A Union Protest By ‘Self Crucifixion’

_77512210_77512209Your help is needed to defend the rights of workers in Paraguay. 51 workers from the Line 49 bus company in Asunción, Paraguay, have been fired for forming a trade union. The workers, who had endured 10 years of informal work, irregular pay and long hours, created the union in June and were dismissed the very next day.

Thirty-seven of them have since been protesting outside the company headquarters by self-crucifying.

The ITUC has asked for letters of protest to be sent to the Paraguayan Embassy in the UK, and have provided a model letter Click here. Please send letters to:

His Excellency Mr Miguel Angel Solano Lopez Casco
Embassy of the Republic of Paraguay
3rd Floor
344 Kensington High Street
W14 8NS

The TUC’s own response is also available by clicking here.

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New Trade Union Bill Could Hamper Productivity

killthebill badgeBy Professor Kim Hoque of Warwick Business School    and Nick Bacon, Cass Business School.

Restricting facility time for union representatives in the public sector would be counterproductive and may damage levels of trust between employers and employees and ultimately lower labour productivity according to new research.

  • Research from professors at Warwick Business School and Cass looks at union representation
  • New Trade Union Bill could have detrimental effects the research suggests
  • This is because restricting facility time would be counterproductive according to the study
  • Study suggests union reps and management can work together on workplace committees to bring a positive impact

New research from Warwick and Cass Business Schools suggests reforms to trade union laws could be detrimental to the government’s aspirations to improve business productivity.

The Trade Union Bill, which was introduced in the House of Commons on July 15, 2015, promises ‚Äėgreater scrutiny and controls over taxpayer-funded subsidies to trade unions (so-called ‚Äėfacility time‚Äô), such as full-time trade union representatives‚Äô.

However, Kim Hoque, Professor of Human Resource Management, found the presence of workplace union representatives in the public sector, who rely on facility time to perform their duties, is associated with higher levels of workplace performance. Therefore, reducing trade union facility time is likely to have detrimental effects.

Professor Hoque said: “The steps laid out by the government do not appear to take into account evidence using data the government itself has sponsored pointing to the positive effects that workplace trade union representatives have in the public sector.

“Overall, the evidence suggests that both full and part-time workplace union representatives help improve performance in the public sector and that managers widely recognise this to be the case.

‚ÄúAs such, the proposed legislation to limit the amount of time union representatives can spend on their representative duties appears unnecessary and may reduce workplace performance in the public sector, preventing managers from deciding on the value of the time spent on representative duties by union representatives on a case by case basis.‚ÄĚ

Full-time representatives

Professor Hoque, alongside Nick Bacon of Cass Business School, has been examining trade union facility time in the public sector.

Their research on the nature and impact of onsite workplace union representation, Workplace union representation in the British public sector: evidence from the 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Survey, uses the most recent government-sponsored Workplace Employment Relations Survey data (WERS 2011).

The research examines both union representatives as a whole and full-time union representatives more specifically, and as such provides particularly relevant insights given the government’s current specific proposals concerning full-time representatives. The research shows:

  • 38 per cent of public sector workplaces with a recognised trade union have an onsite union representative, compared with 26 per cent of private sector workplaces. However, only 2.8 per cent of public sector workplaces with recognised trade unions have an onsite union representative that spends all or nearly all of their working time on their representative duties, suggesting that the vast majority of public sector onsite union representatives are not engaged in representative activities on a full-time basis. This figure is not out of line with the figure of 2.2 per cent in the private sector, and suggests concerns about the amount of facility time and the presence of full-time union representatives in the public sector are overstated.
  • 12 per cent of public sector full-time representatives are also Union Learning Representatives (ULRs) with statutory backing to help increase levels of training and skills, compared with nine per cent of public sector non-full-time representatives. Reducing their facility time may prevent them from being able to play this important role.
  • Public sector workplaces with full-time union representatives are much larger on average (509 employees) in contrast to those with non-full-time union representatives (97 employees). This suggests that where representatives work on a full-time basis, they do so simply because the workplaces in which they are located are larger, hence they are responsible for representing a greater number of members and have a wider range of employment relations issues to help managers deal with.

Damage levels of trust

‚ÄúThis research forms part of the latest evidence signifying the positive impact of unions and onsite union representatives on a range of workplace outcomes,‚ÄĚ Professor Hoque added. ‚ÄúMuch of the earlier research draws on the government‚Äôs own data-sets and shows that unions have a range of positive outcomes on issues from financial performance to equality in the workplace, in sectors as diverse as public services and the finance industry.

‚ÄúEvidence suggests that restricting facility time for union representatives in the public sector would be counterproductive and may damage levels of trust between employers and employees, reduce co-operation when introducing change to improve public services, increase labour turnover, increase the number of industrial tribunal cases, and result in lower levels of labour productivity, service quality and financial performance.‚ÄĚ

Analysis focusing specifically on NHS workplaces using the WERS data shows a positive association between union representative presence and a range of measures of workplace performance as follows:

  • Labour turnover is almost three times higher and the industrial tribunal rate 14 times higher in NHS workplaces without union representatives compared to workplaces where representatives are present.
  • There is no evidence that workplace union representatives in the NHS restrict the ability of employers to manage absenteeism or the performance of individual employees given similar levels of staff absence and dismissals compared to workplaces without union representatives
  • Managers in NHS workplaces with union representatives present are more likely to report labour productivity, quality of services (e.g. levels of patient care) and financial performance to be ‚Äėbetter‚Äô or ‚Äėa lot better‚Äô than are managers in NHS workplaces without union representatives

Positive impact

Professor Hoque and Bacon’s recent analysis suggests the positive impact of workplace union reps and facility time in the public sector may be attributed to partnership working with managers to improve public services.

  • In public sector workplaces that have both a union representative and a Joint Consultative Committee, the union representative sits on the committee 72 per cent of the time. This figure rises to 85 per cent in workplaces where the union representative is full-time.
  • 66 per cent of union representatives in the public sector state that they work closely with management when changes are being introduced. This figure rises to 82 per cent among full-time worker representatives. This suggests that the facility time employers provide for union reps enables them to engage in partnership working with management.
  • 86 per cent of managers in public sector workplaces that have a workplace union representative state that representatives can be trusted to act with honesty and integrity. Only 3.5 per cent say that union representatives cannot be trusted to act with honesty and integrity.
  • In public sector workplaces with a full-time representative, managers are no less likely to state that the union representative can be trusted to act with honesty and integrity than are public sector managers in workplaces with non-full-time representatives. As such, there are no grounds to argue that managers in public sector workplaces view the presence of full-time representatives as problematic.

Professor Kim Hoque teaches Employment Relations in Britain and Introduction to Human Resource Management on the MSc Human Resource Management & Employment Relations. Nick Bacon is from Cass Business School.

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