As part of our regular Representing Members column, we focus on how reps in Home Office Merseyside branch dealt with cuts in facility time by changing the way they sort, assess and process members’ queries and personal cases.
Branch vice-president Derek Mellor told Activate that an easy online system like theirs is free and takes only a couple of hours to set-up.
Dealing with hundreds of members across multiple workplaces calls for some strategic thinking if reps want to keep track of cases, spot patterns and avoid anyone becoming overloaded.
At Home Office Merseyside branch they’ve devised a simple online set-up that enables members and reps to use a centralised system that spans 8 sites and more than 1,600 members.
Due to cuts in facility time, branch reps no longer have the almost permanent presence they used to have in their PCS office. While members could previously pop in or phone up, that’s no longer a consistent option.
So the branch decided to filter all the questions and requests for representation through a one-stop online shop that’s hosted on their existing website. Members can access it from any device, whether they are at work or home.
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Enquiries are split into two categories, making it easier for reps to prioritise:
- Simple questions – for example about ongoing workplace issues, health & safety or administrative queries – are directed to a specific email address.
- Members requesting individual representation from PCS, such as for a disciplinary hearing, are asked to complete an online form.
Tailored advice is also given for union reps, members in need of support, and members in managerial positions who are dealing with requests for facility time.
Derek Mellor says you don’t need an existing website to be able to have such a triage system.
“A link in a members’ mailshot, or on social media, is enough. And best of all, it’s free and only takes a couple of hours to set-up,” he said.
In 2015 it became clear that the branch had “limited information on how many personal cases we were dealing with at any one time, the nature of those cases and whether one or more reps were overloaded,” said Derek, who won a PCS organising and communications award, in 2016, for setting up the branch’s website.
He said the branch devised the personal case triage system using Google Forms. Members provide all the information needed for a branch officer to assess the case and allocate it to an appropriate rep.
“Most of the process is automated. On submitting their request the members’ details are uploaded to a web-based spreadsheet used to manage the cases. The member receives an auto-generated copy of all the information they have provided and identical emails are sent simultaneously to the branch general email and back-up inboxes. This alerts the branch to the arrival of the request, which is triaged manually, depending on the urgency of the case,” he explained.
“The system has proved useful for monitoring areas of the branch which may be hotspots for particular or emerging issues, it helps with improved allocation and monitoring of cases and reps have contact details for the member and background information at their fingertips when they receive the case,” he said.
Derek added that the online form can be changed to reflect new priorities when needed, and a report goes to every BEC meeting to provide an update of the nature and distribution of cases across the branch.
CS Support Centre: updates on personal case work