Autumn 2017 saw a cohort of students from the East region head back to GCU to complete the rest of the mandatory modules required for them to qualify as Specialist Paramedics.
Unfortunately and without discussion or consultation, the cohort found the management team in the East region had changed the amount of hours off afforded to students attending GCU for further development.
During the previous modules which started at the beginning of 2017, a trainee specialist attending university was given the full day off if they were rostered to be on a 12 hour shift OR given 12 hours back if they were on a day off and due to attend university. Now however, they were told they would only be given 7.5 hours off for attending university, these 7.5 hours was to include travel time too. With the majority of the cohort travelling between one and a half to two hours each way to attend university, they found themselves not only studying in their own time but travelling too. Management across the divisions also requested than when staff attended university for 3 full days throughout the week, they also backfilled spaces in vehicles at weekends. This ensured coverage throughout the division, but resulted in the cohort working on average five 12 hour shifts a week and only getting paid for 48 hours due to non recognition of the “real time” the cohort were actually spending at university.
Amongst the cohort was a unison steward who approached the HOS in the hope they could discuss the issue informally as it was having a detrimental effect on the staff involved. Unfortunately, he informed her, as there was no National policy in place detailing what hour’s trainee specialist Paramedics should be afforded whilst developing at university, until there was, they would only allow 7.5 hours until one was developed.
After further discussion, the cohort decided the only way forward was to take out a collective grievance. With 14 names on the document, it was sent to the HOS and it included and detailed the effects the extra hours was having on the students work-life balance. It further highlighted the implementation of the new “rules” as unfair, and implemented without warning. These rules added additional pressures onto staff who were already under tremendous stress juggling a job, lengthy travel times to GCU and undertaking a Post Graduate Certificate in Advanced Practice.
The grievance was heard and it was decided a small working group would be created to discuss the issues mentioned above and try to find solutions by creating and agreeing on a national policy. The group met and decided the new policy should and would afford trainee specialist a “shift for a shift”. This new policy which was also backdated to September 2017, this in turn afforded staff the opportunity to claim back TOIL for all the extra hours they were made to work during the four month period they attended university.
This was a fabulous result and with Unison’s direct involvement, staff will now be more likely to apply for professional development in the future, knowing it will not have a detrimental impact on their work-life balance.