If nothing changes between now and September, something will happen within our Service that has not happened for at least a decade.
We are at a very serious pivotal point with the threat of an imposed policy that has not been jointly agreed. We are heading back to the bad old days.
As staff within LAS know there has been an ongoing review of the London Ambulance Service Rest Break Policy. This review has been taking place within the Operational Partnership Forum (OPF).
The staff side of the OPF is made up of each Senior Sector Representative within the Service (including the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) senior rep) and the Staff Side Chair. As Staff Side Secretary I also have the right to attend.
The current Rest Break Policy was negotiated and jointly signed off in 2006. It was implemented in December 2006 although there is some debate around whether it has ever been fully implemented as intended.
Policies need to change over time for a whole variety of reasons. UNISON understands that and always plays a constructive part in all reviews and negotiations.
The Rest Break Policy Review is different and has been difficult. It is hard to continue being constructive when every idea, every thought, every suggestion, every opinion of staff side is seemed to be brushed aside.
It is hard to continue to be constructive at the point when it becomes obvious that the Management Side are not seeking simply to review the policy and ‘tidy it up’, but fundamentally change it.
Rest Breaks within all ambulance services have always been an emotive issue, particularly after the introduction of Agenda for Change (a great agreement in all other ways) when rest Breaks went from being paid as part of the working day (inclusive), to not being paid (excluded).
The Management Side agenda seems to have been to unpick our jointly agreed Rest Break Policy and insert changes whether Staff Side agree or not.
They have been going through the motions of negotiation, consultation and partnership to get to where they wanted to be in the first place: a position to impose a one sided policy on staff.
This is a Management Policy and not a Jointly Agreed Policy. We have to be absolutely clear about that. The 2006 Jointly Agreed Policy will be discarded and a Management Policy put in its place if these plans continue.
While the Staff Side have been willing to discuss the responsibility of staff in communicating requests for Rest Breaks and fulfilling their part of the agreement, we have been strongly opposed to standing staff down at hospitals and other locations. That is not a rest break.
As I have said, if this policy is implemented as it is, it will be the first policy to be imposed on our members for over a decade. It will not be the last if we do nothing about it.
It is important that we have the support of members as there has been a suggestion from management that only staff representatives have a problem with this and the majority of staff don’t.
I know that isn’t true.
As a responsible trade union we always seek agreements as we know that that is not only the best way to operate, it is the only way. But we cannot agree the unagreeable.
We have asked the Service not to proceed with these changes/plans until such time as they are agreed properly with UNISON – we hope they agree to do this.
If not, something else may well happen for the first time in a decade. UNISON has lodged a dispute to safeguard our members interests. Let’s hope we do not have to carry it through.
(Click here to read the Rest Break Policy draft revision August 2011 final.).Eric Roberts Branch Secretary.
This news story has been reproduced from Eric’s Blog www.ericsblog.lasunison.com