Trade unions

For further information regarding trade union representatives please contact the Directorate of Human Resources.

Agreement on facilities for unison officials

1. Preamble

  1. This agreement is made between Oxford Brookes University and the University branch of UNISON. It provides for time off and other facilities to enable UNISON to represent the interests of all its members who are employed by the University and are in categories for which UNISON has been granted full recognition, (at present APT&C and manual staff) or limited recognition (at present Management staff). It comes into effect on 1st July 1995 and replaces all previous County Council and University agreements related to time off and facilities, unless otherwise agreed in writing between the University and UNISON.
  2. The University and UNISON accept the importance of good industrial relations to the efficient and effective conduct of the University. UNISON recognises the responsibility of management to plan, organise and manage the operations of the University and management recognises the responsibility of UNISON to safeguard its members’ interests by seeking to maintain and, where possible, improve their conditions of service, and to advise and represent member(s). Both parties support a system of joint consultation and negotiation to further their mutual and respective objectives. In order to participate in this system UNISON needs to elect accredited representatives (officials) who will need reasonable time off from their contracted duties and other facilities to enable them to carry out their industrial relations duties and trade union activities. For its part UNISON undertakes to keep requests for time off and other facilities to the level necessary efficiently to perform its industrial relations role within the University.
  3. Both parties support the principles of the ACAS Codes of Practice on Time Off for Trade Union Duties and Activities and on Disclosure of Information. This agreement is understood to reflect those principles.
  4. It is for the University to determine what arrangements, if any, will be made to compensate Faculties and Directorates where time off is granted within the terms of this agreement. However, the effective operation of UNISON and this agreement should not be frustrated by the adequacy or otherwise of those arrangements. If UNISON has concerns that this is the case they should be raised in accordance with section 9.

2. Definitions of officials

  1. Officials include:
    • local representatives (“representatives”). A representative is a University employee elected or appointed in accordance with the appropriate union rules to represent a constituency of union members. The number, size and geographical location of each constituency shall be agreed between the University and UNISON and may be reviewed from time to time. As a rule of thumb, the University is unlikely to object to a ratio of representatives to members of 1:20, and a spread of representatives which covers all groups in an efficient manner.
    • members with a special University-wide function e.g. welfare, who will be regarded as representatives for all purposes in this agreement;
    • three union branch officers (“officers”, for example Chair or Secretary) who are entitled to take paid time off under section 3 paragraph 2 below.
  2. UNISON shall notify the Director of Human Resources of the names of all officials when they are appointed and of any subsequent changes. The Director of Human Resources will issue officials with a notice of accreditation.
  3. No individual member will, for the purposes of time off and other facilities, be regarded as holding more than one of the offices described above.

3. Time off for industrial relations duties and trade union activities for officials

  1. Representatives will be granted a maximum of 50 hours per month paid time off in total to carry out local industrial relations duties and approved trade union activities related to the business of the branch in promoting the interests of its members with the University i.e. branch meetings, executive meetings, committee meetings, other meetings with management or member(s) and the administration of the branch. Any individual representative will be granted a maximum of five hours per month.
  2. Three officers nominated by the Branch may take paid time off to undertake the functions listed below, subject to any limits set out in those paragraphs:
    • time spent representing members in formal meetings as part of any University procedure where members are entitled to representation by an officer (e.g. disciplinary, grievance, regrading appeals), including an allowance for the officer undertaking the representation of up to two hours for preparation in respect of each case and covering all stages of the procedure;
    • time spent in Joint Committee meetings;
    • 50% of the time spent in ad hoc meetings called by and with management;
    • time spent in attendance on courses approved in accordance with section 4 paragraph 8 below;
    • a maximum of a further 30 hours a month in total for local industrial relations activities and approved trade union activities related to the business of the branch in promoting the interests of its members with the University i.e. branch meetings, committee meetings, executive meetings, other meetings with member(s) and the administration of the branch. Any individual officers will be granted a maximum of 15 hours a month.
  3. The University recognises that wholly exceptional events may require paid time off additional to the figures above. Examples are a job grading exercise affecting all support staff or a significant reorganisation of the University. In such cases discussions will be held in advance to determine the amount of time off needed.
  4. Officials may apply for unpaid time off to undertake local trade union activities, industrial relations duties and training that will normally be granted.
  5. The University recognises that UNISON may seek to involve representatives more actively in casework to reduce the load on the three officers. In such circumstances this agreement will be reviewed and the requirements for training and any time off discussed. Overall the requirement for time off should not increase following completion of training.
  6. Trade union members may also be elected or appointed as representatives within the regional and national industrial relations framework for the sector. Any time off arrangements for these purposes (except for the Annual Conference) will be the subject of separate agreements, negotiated for each member involved, between the University and UNISON.

4. Arrangements for granting time off

Establishing a framework

  1. The University and UNISON recognise that the two roles of an official as a member of staff of a Faculty/Directorate and as a UNISON official are both important. Effectiveness has to be maintained in both, and conflicts avoided wherever possible. For most officials, who will have only a limited involvement in branch activities, this may present little difficulty. In the case of the three officers who have a more extensive involvement the issues may be more significant. Where time off is granted it is acknowledged, particularly in the case of the officers, that this requires a reduction in the work-load that the member of staff would otherwise be expected to undertake.
  2. Each academic year an official will discuss and agree with his/her Dean of Faculty/Director or nominated representative a framework of arrangements for time off, which shall be put in writing and submitted by the Dean of Faculty/Director to the Director of Human Resources for approval. The points to be discussed and covered by the agreement will include:
    • the needs of the Faculty/Directorate for the official’s involvement, and in particular in programmed activities e.g. laboratory classes, meetings or work with key deadlines;
    • the industrial relations and trade union activities in which the official is likely to be involved, and the timing of those activities;
    • in the case of the three officers, reasonable periods in each week (up to three sessions totalling six hours) in which the officer will wherever possible hold all meetings with individual members or groups of members, and other ad hoc meetings and undertake branch administration (“surgery hours”). It is recognised that the officers may need to accept or make brief telephone calls outside those periods;
    • arrangements for informing the Dean of Faculty/Director of any absence during “surgery hours” or in an emergency.
  3. Thus, in the case of an official with limited involvement, a Dean of Faculty/Director and the official should have, at the beginning of the academic year, a fairly clear idea of how much time off is likely to be taken and when. In the case of an officer, the Dean of Faculty/Director and the officer will have had the opportunity to ensure that the needs of the Faculty/Directorate, the regular pattern of union activities and the other activities to be conducted in surgery hours do not conflict. The Director of Human Resources will have had the opportunity to vet the arrangements to ensure that they are consistent with this agreement, and will have information that will help in ensuring that any meetings outside surgery hours create the minimum of inconvenience to all parties.
  4. It may be that from time to time an official’s involvement, and particularly an officer’s involvement will, within the approved envelope of time off, be sought outside the pattern established by the framework. In particular where:
    • a member has been suspended;
    • a formal disciplinary, grievance or regrading hearing has been fixed for a time, or will extend for a time, outside surgery hours;
    • the management has fixed ad hoc meetings for times outside surgery hours;
    • time off is required for a relevant training course.

    In such cases every reasonable effort will be made to grant time off. The Director of Human Resources will attempt to ensure that the timing of any hearing or meeting is acceptable to the relevant Dean of Faculty/Director. However, the operational requirements of the Faculty/Directorate will take precedence in the exceptional circumstance that any conflict proves to be incapable of resolution. It is acknowledged and agreed that this may require that meetings have to be postponed and as a consequence deadlines in agreed procedures will have to be waived.

Specific approval for time off and monitoring arrangements

Representatives

  1. Representatives are required to inform and gain the agreement of their immediate manager as far as possible in advance before leaving their normal place of work. The representative shall keep a record of all time off taken (both paid and unpaid) using the Time Off for Industrial Relations and Trade Union Duties. No later than five working days after the end of the month concerned, a copy of the form shall be sent by the representative to the Dean of Faculty/Director who will arrange for a copy to be forwarded immediately to the Director of Human Resources.

Officers

  1. The three officers will apply for time off on a monthly basis. At least two weeks before the beginning of each month they will submit the Time Off for Industrial Relations and Trade Union Duties form to the Dean of Faculty/Director who will arrange for a copy to be forwarded immediately to the Director of Human Resources, setting out all known activities and surgery hours. The Dean of Faculty/Director will return the form to the officer at least one week before the beginning of the month indicating approval or otherwise. The Director of Human Resources will arrange directly with the Dean of Faculty/Director for the approval of time off for formal disciplinary, grievance or regrading hearings and ad hoc meetings arranged by management. In an emergency, such as a member being suspended, the officer may seek approval for time off at short notice in accordance with the procedures in the framework agreement. Such requests would be exceptional. An officer will not leave the workplace during surgery hours without informing the Faculty/Directorate in accordance with the arrangements contained in the framework agreement.
  2. Records of time off taken (both paid and unpaid) will be kept by the officer using the appropriate form. No later than five working days after the end of the month concerned, a copy of the form shall be sent by the officer to the Dean of Faculty/Director who will arrange for it to be forwarded immediately to the Director of Human Resources.

All officials

  1. Applications from officials for time off to attend appropriate courses shall be submitted at least 4 weeks in advance of the course, to the Director of Human Resources together with a copy of the syllabus or prospectus. Subject to the operational requirements of the University, and the limits on time off included in this agreement, time off with pay may be granted for courses that are deemed to be relevant for the official in undertaking his/her union role and will be agreed with the Dean of Faculty/Director by the Director of Human Resources. Time off to attend courses will be included in the record of time off.
  2. If the Faculty/Directorate faces an unforeseen situation requiring the official’s attendance, approval that has been granted may have to be withdrawn. This should be wholly exceptional and only after consultation with the official and, if appropriate, the Director of Human Resources. It is acknowledged and agreed that this may require that meetings have to be postponed and as a consequence deadlines in agreed procedures will have to be waived.
  3. The Director of Human Resources will monitor the returns and advise Deans of Faculty/Directors and officials on the interpretation and implementation of this agreement as necessary. The monitoring information will be available to UNISON.
  4. At the end of any one month an official or a group of officials as appropriate may carry forward a surplus or deficit of up to 50% of any of the monthly allowances set out in this agreement, such surplus or deficit to be added to or counted against the next month’s allowance. If a training event for a significant number of officials is unmanageable within these limits, further flexibility can be agreed by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor on application from UNISON.

5. Annual conference

  1. One official delegate to the union’s annual national conference will be entitled to time off with pay for the number of days on which the conference is held, subject to the union notifying the name of the delegate to the Director of Human Resources as far in advance of the event as possible.

6. Time off for trade union members

  1. When the union wishes to hold a meeting of members during normal working time, the secretary of UNISON shall apply for approval to the Director of Human Resources as far in advance as is practicable. Where it is agreed that the meeting may take place during normal working hours, facilities and pay arrangements shall be agreed between the union and the Director of Human Resources. Three branch meetings a year will be regarded as reasonable.
  2. When a union member wishes to seek information, advice or assistance from an official, time off for that member shall be a matter for agreement between the union member and his/her Dean of Faculty/Director.

7. Payment arrangements

  1. Where time off with pay is granted, officials and union members shall receive the pay that they would have received had they been working on University business. Paid time off will only be granted in respect of normal contractual hours. In the event that any official or member has a legal entitlement to any greater payment that will be honoured.

8. Other facilities

  1. The University will, as far as is reasonably practicable, make available the following facilities (without charge except for points iv and ix below) to officials to enable them to carry out their University industrial relations duties, subject to the normal University booking procedures:
    1. accommodation for meetings at branch and departmental levels,
    2. access to rooms to interview, in privacy, individual members seeking union advice and/or assistance;
    3. the use of internal and external telephone services and internal and external mail arrangements;
    4. printing and photocopying at a charge of 20% of the normal charge out cost to other University Faculties and directorates;
    5. accommodation for meetings with full-time union officers;
    6. the use of approved staff notice boards and the University’s internal mail facilities;
    7. the provision of lists of relevant new employees at monthly intervals;
    8. wherever possible accommodation to enable the election of officials to take place during working hours;
    9. the operation of a check off system at a charge of 3% of the basic UNISON subscription.
  2. The University will monitor the cost of providing these facilities and may seek to renegotiate the charges made or charge for items currently provided at no charge. In this event the University will give UNISON at least three months’ notice and any charges agreed will not exceed the charges to Faculties/Directorates in the University or the actual cost to the University whichever is the lesser.

9. Interpretation of the agreement

  1. In the event of any disagreement over the implementation or interpretation of this agreement, the matter shall be referred to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Business and Resources), and the Chair of the Branch. If the matter cannot be resolved at this level it shall be referred to an appropriate Joint Committee.

10. Review and termination

  1. This agreement will be reviewed one year from the date of implementation. It may be terminated at any time by either party giving three months’ notice.