Feb 09

​This week is Heart Unions week and UNISON members have been telling their stories of how UNISON has helped them.  Today I will tell you the story of member helped by North Devon Health Branch.

​'I need a rep to accompany me...'

For this individual it started, as it often does, with a request to attend a sickness absence hearing.  They contacted the branch to request that a steward accompanied them.  Having just breached their previous sickness absence target they were worried about any further targets that might be set.

Talking to the member it transpired that part of their sickness absence was due to the way in which they felt their manager was treating them.  So we put in a bullying and harrassment complaint to HR so this could be investigated.

Whilst the investigation was non-conclusive, positive steps were taken to help the member in the workplace.  However, by this point the health of the member had taken a serious down turn and there was no way that any sickness absence target could be met.  They could no longer face coming into work and were even having trouble leaving the house.

​'I can't come to work..I can't face it'

Now we were in a position on being unable to meet with managers and facing the prospect that the member would not return to work.  After a bit of negotiation we managed to secure a temporary redeployment into a position where the member could work from home.  This allowed them to build their confidence back up and also show the other skills they had.  At the end of that redeployment we negotiated another but this time in the workplace at a local community hospital.

​​'I love it here!'

Now the member is working at the community hospital and has been redeployed from their previous post.  They love their new role and have been able to return to work with glowing reports from all of the managers who looked after them.

​When we had our final meeting, this member asked me if this level of support is normal and thanked me for all of the hard work.  My reply was that without the member putting in the hard work, I can't do anything.

'I #heartunions'

This member #heartunions because they do the everything within their power to support their members.​

Nov 26
Why we are supporting Dave for General Secretary

​Have you voted yet?  And have you voted for Dave?

As a nominating branch we have told you our reasons for the nomination.  Watch the video below to see why others have nominated Dave (it features our wonderful theatres team).



Aug 11
Back pain

​​Ouch that hurt!

​Yesterday was an unhappy day for me.  I once a​gain managed to hurt my back.  As last time it was a ​small movement with a light object but at an angle.  The moment I felt my back spasm I knew I was in trouble.  How did I react?  First I went "Ouch my back!" and then I lent over to the baby monitor  a said "Honey, helllp, I'm stuck."  In short order my wife came to help me and sort me out.

​Pain relief

​I didn't used to take pain killers and I am not sure why.  But having some pain relief has enabled me to g​​et back to work today.  I might not be 100% but at least I can do most things.  

I've got a sickness absence hearing

​"I've got a sickness absence hearing" is a p​​hrase that we hear alot.  In fact we deal with more sickness absence cases than disciplinaries and grievances put together.  For some people dealing with a sickness absence process is more stressful and intimidating than being disciplined.  Why is this?  Well, in most cases sickness is not something that we can control and we will all at some point in our lives go through a rough patch.  For the person going through the process it can feel that they are being punished for something out with their control.  Even in cases were we have some control over our illnesses there can be occasions when control is lost.  ​​What are the employers thinking?  For the most part the employer will be looking to help a sick employee.  It is in their best interest to ensure that the workforce is healthy.  A healthy workforce is a more productive workforce and in Healthcare has been shown to be have a direct impact on patient experience.  Secondly, a healthy workforce takes less sick leave, reducing costs and lost days of work.

Why do they put us under more stress then?

​​Based on the above you might think that a sickness absence process is counter productive.  But if you think about what should be happening in a sickness absence process it isn't.  A good sickness absence process will look at ways in which an employee can be helped back into work.  Some of these ways might be 'reasonable' adjustments e.g. a special chair to help with back pain, or a phased return to work.  Others maybe the provision of occupational health services and councilling.  If all goes well, then an employer can help an employee back into work which benefits the both.

Incapability due to ill health

​In the worse case scenario, an employer can dismiss on the grounds that the your absence makes you incapable of performing your job.  But the good news is that for most employers this is a last resort and only taken when all other measures have failed.

Finally, some good news

​The great thi​​ng about being a UNISON member is that when you are going through a sickness absence process; a representative can help.  We can work with you to understand the policy, make sure it is being applied properly and that appropriate reasonable adjustments are considered.  We might even be able to suggest some that haven't been thought of by others!  But most of all, we can be there to assure that any action taking by an employer is proportionate and takes into account your individual circumstances.

Aug 07
End to automatic payments of union subscriptions

​​​Freedom of Choice

​​​You may have heard about the Governments plans to end automatic subscription payments for unions within the public sector.  The Government claims that this is an out dated system which was greater in a time when most workers did not have a bank account.  They claim that this will give people more freedom with their finances and will end people being forced into union membership. (see this BBC Article)

​​​Reality Check

Firstly, the days of closed shops and mandatory union membership are long gone.  Each and every member of a trade union has chosen to join that union.

Secondly, many members prefer to have their membership taken directly from their wages.  It means it's all taken care of and they don't have to worry. Also if they are entitled to a tax rebate on their subs, it is also all done automatically.

​​​DOCAS, Check off etc

​DOCAS, Check off or whatever you call it does not have a vast administrative overhead.  If it did private employers would not offer automatic deductions.  Direct payments from salary also allow employers to know how many people are in a union.  Now this might seem scary to a union member, but it is useful for employers when planning around industrial action (​Employers are not allowed to identify individuals directly from this system.)

​​​​The Real Reasons for stopping this

So if there are all these positive things about automatic payments, why would the Government want to end them.  Well, yes, there is a cost involved in administering the system but there are other automatic deduction schemes e.g. charitable giving.  The costs of administering multiple schemes together will not be the same as adding the costs of administering the schemes separately.  So stopping one scheme of automatic payments is unlikely to lower costs by that much.

The real reason is that the Government thinks this will make less people join unions and make it more difficult for unions to control their income.  It is acutally only a very small change in the way in which subscriptions are collected but it could have a massive behavioural affect on the public. ​​(Get a copy of Nudge​, to understand why Governments like this approach)  In doing this the Government thinks that the unions will shrink in size and have more trouble finding money to campaign on issues affecting workers.

​​Stronger together in UNISON

​So what is UNISON doing about this? (see UNISON's reponse​)  Well we will be campaigning against the Trade Union Bill which contains the legislation to prevent automatic deductions.  We will also be working with employers to maintain the systems currently in place. After all it benefits them as well as members.

​What can you do?

​Information from the branch will on what you can do will be coming out shortly.  But most importantly, you can let people know why you are happy for subscriptions to be deducted and correct some of the misconceptions being spread.​​​