Too many hours and no pay to show for it

A review of Office for National Statistics working hour data by the GMB union in 2017 found that 17% of central government workers, including civil servants, regularly work at an average of 6.9 hours a week unpaid overtime.

The GMB  say that civil servants are regularly working an average of seven hours unpaid overtime a week as part of an estimated £11bn worth of unpaid hours worked across the public sector.

The FDA (which represents Senior Civil Servants and Fast Streamers)  has conducted working time surveys amongst its members over the last few years

Commenting on a recent such survey, the FDA said:

Worthy of repeating, that last one: one in 10 are working the equivalent of a seven day week, every week. Most of this is unpaid overtime. Although in some employers flexi time, time off in lieu or overtime payment systems exist, these can be cumbersome and, of course, if you take time off there’s no-one to fill the gap or, as one member put it, this “would lead to more out of contracted hours, in order to keep on top of my workload volume.

This is a picture not of peaks and troughs, but systemic long-hours working that is having an impact on the public servants the country is relying upon.

The Independent Left (IL) recognises that unpaid work is an increasing problem in the civil service and indeed the wider public service. Unpaid work is a subsidy to the employer and is a ‘free’ productivity gain.

We take the trade union view that if you work it, then you must be paid for it. Also despite the Working Time Regulations and the Working Time Directive, in many work places this unpaid over-time is not being recorded.

Of course by not recording this working time the Working Time Regulations and the Working Time Directive are effectively bypassed/neutralised and the minimum health standards set out in them are effectively being ignored.

Whilst this unrecorded, in-excess, unpaid work problem is most prevalent in central parts of the departments, anywhere which has flexible IT, which allows home, travel and not-in –the office working, then this problem will be present and probably will be getting worse.

As far as we can see, the current union leadership is not aware of this problem; notwithstanding that it has nothing to say about the problem.

We are seeking therefore as minimum steps that:

  • the national union runs a publicity campaign on ‘working your hours’; this campaign to be supportive of flexible working but emphasising that this is flexibility within your contracted hours;
  • the problem is raised with the employer, asking them to take action under health and safety law and to pay staff for any excess working;
  • That we argue that the union runs test cases to prove that hours worked in excess of the contract should be counted as working time.

The above are only minimum steps but at least they are a start. The IL is standing in the 2018 elections because it wants to fundamentally change the union. Electing us in would also be a minimum step, but it would be a start.

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