ISU Membership Circular 18.02.2016
The department’s recently circulated material on Pay 2015 was not as clear as we would have liked about the ISU’s continued engagement on the topic of legacy allowances.
The ISU is committed to exploring any possible way of improving working conditions for staff regardless of what attendance allowance is in payment. There are serious issues with the AHW system as it stands which unfairly penalise members. Also we are conscious that many members feel unable to move from jobs they hate because they aren’t able to accept the change to AHW terms and conditions this now entails. If we are able to address these and make the AHW package more reasonable then we believe that would be to the benefit of all members.
However the ISU will not enter any unilateral agreement to vary terms and conditions. In recent days some of the data we requested has been provided by the Department and we now anticipate a further meeting in early March. We will continue to update as matters unfold.
Over the winter period there has been a drive in Border Force North to extend PST3 training to all staff in most locations, apparently to meet commitments connected with the European arrest warrant. The national position confirmed by NCC is that ordinarily a maximum of 75% of staff at any one location need to be so trained; although there will always be particular areas, duty types and shift patterns where a higher, or indeed lower, ratio is required.
However assessment of the PST3 requirement has recently been updated in the North resulting in the position where all bar two Border Force North locations now have 100% PST3 requirement. These reviews were completed without any union input. We have asked for sight of these assessments and the data supporting business need for increased PST3. Only a small handful of assessments have been provided and our requests for supporting data have simply been rejected. It remains utterly unclear to us what precisely has changed recently to warrant these increases in PST3 requirement. Management failure to engage in any appropriate manner with the ISU nationally does nothing to promote confidence in the integrity of Border Force North’s position.
The ISU has always acknowledged that there will be areas where a higher level of PST3 / arrest training is needed. However 100% PST3 requirement seems to us a genuinely rare and exceptional need.
We need to understand why these requirements are set so high within Border Force North. We also need to understand what long term plans might be available for staff who fall pregnant, or who are unable to continue with the physical strain through injury or ageing. At the moment the picture appears to be that Border Force North cannot accommodate you; anyone considering a move to a port with a 100% PST3 requirement needs to be particularly careful. The diversity implications for such a policy are very worrying.
The ISU are pragmatic, we recognise that these issues do raise genuine difficulties which have to be resolved. We ask only that managers act in accordance with the Working Together Agreement between the ISU and Border Force, signed by Sir Charles Montgomery. This entails involvement of ISU representatives at an early stage, a matter of particular significance where difficulties are greatest. That has not occurred here. There has been no consultation with the ISU on these changes or on the increased PST3 requirement which flows from them. We are saddened that Border Force North apparently do not feel bound by commitments made by the Director-General of Border Force.
We are in discussion with Sir Charles’ office to address these matters. Matters are ongoing and the ISU is committed to achieving a fair, mutually acceptable negotiated outcome. We will update members as these progress.
However we are conscious that Border Force North managers are nevertheless proceeding to hold individual meetings with staff not yet PST3 trained; although we have asked for this action to be stayed until there has been proper engagement with the ISU. At the moment and under these circumstances it is inevitable that members, and indeed sometimes the managers so instructed, perceive these meetings as threatening.
We must give some short words of advice to members, given the huge volume of concern expressed to us.
If you are being placed under pressure by any manager in relation to PST3 training, be that to undertake the training yourself or to pressure your staff into doing so, please respond that you are waiting on the outcome of management discussions with the ISU taking place outside the region. It is perfectly reasonable to reserve your position given the absence of any meaningful consultation or discussion with your Union.
Employee Assistance Programme
The ISU met recently with senior managers for the EAP programme. Employee Assistance is independent on the Home Office and offers a fairly broad range of “wellness” support covering both work and private lives.
The ISU is aware that there have been issues in the past over the level of service provided by EAP and we have been given assurance that measures are in place to address these. If members find that EAP has fallen short in some respect please do let your local rep know so that these issues can be flagged up promptly.
The provision of services from EAP is part of the broader remuneration package for staff and we would encourage staff to make use of it. You can see the full range of services on their website www.hoeap.com. A more detailed circular on the services offered by EAP will be placed on the website in due course.