Representing members: analysing personal casework

In the first of our regular columns on representing members, personal case lead for the Home Office group, Malcolm Davey, reports on how they have gathered data on more than 800 personal cases and are using it to bring about improvements and organise.

Late last year the Home Office Group decided to conduct a survey of personal casework. We decided we needed to find out exactly what we do and where we do it, with the initial aim of providing feedback to our organising and personnel leads.

We had already appointed an assistant group secretary to handle this particular area of our work.

We sent a briefing out to our branches, asking them to report on their work for the eight-month period from post-national conference until the end of January, and received 12 replies.

Branches were to break their cases down into six categories:

  1. Attendance management
  2. Discipline
  3. Formal performance
  4. Moderation/forced ranking
  5. Grievance resolution
  6. Requests for legal advice

The group totalled an impressive 830 cases over the specified period and these broke down as follows:

  1. Attendance 48%
  2. Discipline 19%
  3. Grievance resolution 14%
  4. Moderation 10%
  5. Requests for legal advice 6%
  6. Formal performance 3%

The figures probably illustrate what many activists already know in terms of the high volume of sick cases accounting for nearly half our work. They also show that the employer rarely took formal action on performance when the forced ranking system was in place.

Armed with this information, the group has already begun to draft motions on sickness, grievance and discipline policies for our 2018 conference. We noticed that the departmental warnings guidance made no reference to either work-related stress or mental health issues, so we aim to rectify that. Our bullying and harassment policy sits within our grievance – rather than discipline – process, which we feel needs changing. Our grievance procedure contains an initial ‘test’, asking if the issue could potentially be the subject of a tribunal. Again, we felt this was a barrier to raising complaints so needs to be amended.

We have also begun to draw up tips for new and potential future reps on handling formal meetings, and will publish these on a branch briefing.

It goes without saying that, in standardising our approach to our personal cases, we should not neglect our organising work which remains at the heart of everything we do.

We should look to use our work with individual members to open up work areas and maximise our density therein. We should not regard them as separate. Personal cases will always present organising opportunities to us.

We will then start to achieve our twin objectives of looking after members on aday to day basis whilst simultaneously building our industrial strength.

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