The TUC has published new guidance on union reps’ rights to time off to learn how to carry out their duties.
So, what’s the secret? What’s the best way to get an employer to agree to give union reps paid time off work to train?
The answer is to ask. And keep asking.
Every union activist, rep and officer I’ve ever met understands how important it is to acquire the skills and knowledge they need to perform their role properly.
And evidence suggests that many employers are likely to agree with you. 58% of union reps who asked their employer to provide paid time off to train were successful.
The TUC guide, which draws on the 2010 ACAS Code of Practice, will tell you what you are entitled to ask for. But nothing beats securing an agreement with your employer to invest in your development as a union rep.
Updating your skills as a union rep – and learning new ones - should be a priority for every union activist.
And a great way of ensuring that union members get the best out of their union is for all the local reps to decide what they want to learn before choosing what learning opportunities best suit them. These could be a course, a mentoring scheme or a whole range of other things.
The TUC Education website www.tuceducation.org.uk includes many courses and workshops to help you find what you want. You’ll also find innovative ways to learn, such as eNotes and webinars on the website.
A union branch that encourages reps to take different courses will have the biggest pool of skills to draw upon to help their members.
Once you’ve decided what you’d like to learn (and the TUC’s Union Reps 1 course is an excellent place to start), ask your employer to agree to paid time off to do it.
But don’t stop there. The range of challenges that a union rep is likely to face is huge and you should think ahead to situations you will probably have to deal with.
When you start to consider this list, talk to other reps in your workplace about what might be the best way to gain the knowledge and acquire the confidence you’ll need to deal with these subjects.
You may agree to take different courses at the same time, depending on your own preferences, but the result will be that union members where you work will be represented by reps with a greater range of skills who should be able to do a great job on their behalf.
And don’t stop once you’ve done a course. Keep thinking about what you need to do your job better and search for opportunities to develop your skills.