Branch Secretary end of year report East of England Ambulance Branch 20106

I would like to thank all our 2016 Branch officers, representatives, activists and members for their hard work and support over the past AGM year. I would like to record our thanks to Tracey Lambert as our Regional Manager, who retired from UNISON at the end of 2016. Tracey was a strong supporter of our Branch and a great advocate for UNISON. We’re grateful for the years and dedication she gave to helping our members and our Branch. I would also like to record our sadness at the loss of Eric Roberts, UNISON President and Branch Secretary for the London Ambulance Service. Eric was a friend to our Branch and his loss has been keenly felt across Ambulance Sector. I have many happy memories of his wise words and impeccably timed one liners. We have also lost Sarah Jane, the HR manager for NSC. SJ was the embodiment of a supportive and fair HR manager. Her kindness, warmth and sense of humour are very much missed across NSC. I’d like to extend a warm welcome to Matt Blakey and Chad Fielder who join our Committee, as well as Steve Rudd, who’s returning after a break. We have for the third year, seen a considerable gain to our membership, and despite the number of staff choosing to leave the Trust, we are still seeing an ongoing yearly net gain for the third year in a row. Our strength comes from our numbers and the engagement that members put into our campaigns is very much appreciated. We have achieved a number of supportive changes this year for staff. A new lone worker policy - based on the West Midlands policy, was adopted after the Norfolk grievance was upheld. This new policy ensures that staff have a right to decline to work alone and it addresses a number of collective grievances that were not upheld over previous years. We were able to secure the ‘return’ of five years of pay protection for staff who may come under the Equality Act as having a disability and need redeployment, also as the result of a grievance raised by UNISON. HCRT staff had their UNISON supported collective grievance resolved, over the Trust’s refusal to allow them to apply for the new AAP role advertised on NHS jobs - these staff are now in training. Annex U was applied correctly and Students back paid, following a UNISON grievance raised in April. Darren Jones and myself spent a considerable period of time earlier in the year in negotiations with the assistance of ACAS into the formal dispute over late finishes and meal breaks. This resulted in the ongoing pilot of IX (intelligent X-ray) and a reduction in the type of calls staff can be sent to during their interruptible period of their break. The dispute also prevented negative changes to meal breaks and end of shift which the Trust had outlined to staff. 

We have a number of employment tribunal cases progressing around the holiday pay issues and this grievance was partially upheld, although at the time of writing it has yet to be actioned. We’re currently in discussions about the band 6 national implementation, although over 95% of our Paramedics are already on band 6, following the Senior agreement from 2014. As part of the job evaluation work around job matching, we have requested that the JDs for ECP/CCPs and Supervisors are updated, so we can review if it’s possible to consider job evaluation and banding changes. This is going to be a considerable challenge, given the Trust’s financial position, although if there are grounds based on JE, then we will pursue this. This past year we have seen a number of issues ‘resurface’ such as delays to the Student Paramedic pathway and it’s very important given the strong feelings about the way UNISON handled the previous Student Paramedic delays that this time round we get this right. We have recently had the grievance hearing (after campaigning to get the hearing) and at the time of writing, we’re awaiting the outcome.  We have made considerable strides over the past three years to distance ourselves from the rightful criticism over ineffective campaigning and a QSAP agreement that many felt was unfair. We do not have the gift to change everything overnight or to impose our own ideas on the trust, but we continue to be in a strong position to influence, challenge and evidence the need for change. Our preference is to work in partnership, although we need to be able to campaign where needed to bring about change. We are in difficult times as an Ambulance sector, financial stretch targets, a conservative majority government, and an apparent reluctance to address the retention and recruitment issues at a national level are serious issues. We need to continue to build strong alliances with stakeholders and partners who we share common ground with, to support us with our campaigning work. There are also plans for 2017 to work more closely with other Ambulance UNISON branches, as many of us face similar challenges. Nationally there is closer working being encouraged between Ambulance trusts and through the STP footprints. There’s also a review of sustainability of Ambulance services that we need to be minded on and the outcome of that is not yet clear. We need to continue to support National Ambulance Sector and UNISON nationally to influence both the speed and direction of necessary change, as well as to protect our NHS and the employment legislation we benefit from by being a member of the EU. Education is the life blood of our Branch and throughout 2016 we have continued to invest in the development and support of reps. This is vital to our Branch, especially with the third year of considerable membership growth. We have also offered a new course in deconstructing investigations this year, after reviewing some very poor investigation reports and continued frustrations over cases that we see. UNISON offers specialist developments courses for reps and its great to see a number of our reps undertaking the Diploma in Employment law and further representation skills courses. We have continued to support our reps development with subscriptions to UNIMAG and access to the Labour research department. 

Throughout the year I have attended meetings with the Regional Branch Committee, as well as chairing the county lead meetings. I have also attended regular meetings with the trust through a variety of forums, such as the Staff Partnership Forum, the joint working action group, policy group, as well as the local partnership forums. I meet regularly with a range of executives to discuss and review casework and deal with any other issues that arise. With the Branch Convenor being out of the workplace, I have been undertaking the work of the joint Chair of SPF.6 We wish Baz a speedy recovery and miss him greatly on Branch. I have also attended meetings with MPs, Healthwatch, Councillors, HOSCs (Health overview and Scrutiny Committees), Commissioners, H&S exec, the CQC, other Ambulance Branches and stake holders. I attended a number of national meetings over the band 6 implementation. I have also attended national training in discrimination and contract law. I also undertake a high level of casework and support other representatives over complex cases, as well as advising on the legal aspects of cases. I have responsibility for all legal referrals and we have seen a number of disturbing cases relating to disability discrimination and bullying and harassment which underpins the need for the trusts culture to change. I undertake mediation across the Trust and this is an area that Branch is looking to expand the number of trained mediators we have. In 2015 the Trust provided ACAS training for 8 activists, although any increase in numbers will likely need to be funded from Branch funds or FDO bids. There are a number of areas that we are evidencing around culture, including the recent independent review into Bullying, harassment and discrimination -  and I’m hopeful that we can move from evidencing the need for change - to actual change. As Branch Secretary I carry out all media and its been a very busy year, for both reactive enquiries and press releases. All media activities are reported monthly to the Branch Committee at our RBC meetings. We will ensure members continue to have a strong voice through our representation throughout 2017. Thank you for attending the 2017 AGM.

Kindest Regards,
 Fraer Fraer Stevenson
 UNISON Branch Secretary