Without any prior discussion, DWP has informed PCS that it is not prepared to give paid time off for attending workplace AGMs, branch AGMs or mandating meetings.
In the last three years DWP agreed a concession to the Employee Relations Framework (ERF) and allowed a flexi credit for members to attend these meetings.
DWP is now saying that this concession is no longer available and that members attending any of these meetings would have to do so in their own time and that, for TU reps, any time taken to attend these meetings will have to be treated as flexi leave, annual leave or TUA.
DWP maintain that what they are doing reflects the ERF, which currently says that time off for these meetings will not attract a flexi credit. However no explanation has been given as to why they have decided to withdraw this concession this year when they have allowed it in each of the past three years.
The withdrawal of paid time off to attend AGMs is a direct attack on PCS and its members. It is designed to put as many obstacles as possible in the way of members wishing to actively participate in the democratic functions of the union.
PCS has responded to the employer to protest strongly against their decision and to press them to reconsider. DWP have agreed to a meeting to discuss this. However, without notifying PCS, Employee Relations have already cascaded their decision to local managers. While PCS will make every effort to restore paid time off for AGMs, branches will have to plan on the basis that paid time off will not be available.
Planning time off for AGMs
Although DWP have withdrawn paid time off, the ERF makes clear that reasonable (unpaid) time off to attend may be allowed. The ERF is also clear that attendance at AGMs and mandating meetings is classed as Trade Union Activity (TUA). Rather than applying for annual or flexi leave to attend AGMs, members and reps can apply for unpaid TUA instead.
It will be particularly important this year to ensure that, in addition to the Branch AGM, a meeting is also held in every workplace to elect local PCS representatives. The strength of the union depends on us being well-organised in every workplace and it is more vital than ever that we make sure that PCS has a rep and distributor in every workplace.
Your branch AGM is the key meeting of the year. It gives members the chance to elect their branch reps, to discuss union policy and to hear a guest speaker. Branches will need to take the ending of paid time off into planning for their branch AGMs. Branches should carefully consider the timing and venue of meetings to maximise attendance and to protect union democracy.