At our AGM as has been the norm since 2009 we get to see the branch accounts and approve the budget for the year ahead and the honoraria payments for the year gone.
You can read all these papers the 5 finance documents here:
Since most members don’t attend the AGM (perhaps 2.5% of our members attend mostly stewards and officers), most members dont then look at the detail of the finances, and most members arent aware that we spend a considerable sum of Honoraria.
We do so fully within the Unions national and branch rules. And we democratically agree this every year since 2009 (when the rules changed to make branches vote on them annually at AGM’s) to approve them for the past year as a form of “expenses” of which Unison nationally pays the tax on.
Most are not fully aware of how much we spend on this, and why. Although it is circulated with the 20 documents (5 on finance to all members) and is on link above on our branch website.
Unison nationally has now proposed that if branches choose to pay honoraria they can spend no more than10% of its income (members dues) on honoraria payments. Since this year it will equate to approx 14% of our income then we will have to review and stop or reduce our payments. Perhaps we should have done this sooner, but we now have to do this.
I have to admit I have a vested interest in this subject, I am biassed. Over the last few years realising how much we spend I have been convinced its not the best use of funds. In my role as elected Convenor for Children’s Services I have turned down my honorarium payment for the last 2 years and if I get elected as treasurer I will turn down the £3256.90 payment. If I were to stand for another position in future like branch secretary I would refuse the £6603.79 payment. So you I am biassed against making these payments. To get a balanced argument you might want to ask one of the other officers.
But since we are due to have a review and as members we get a vote at the AGM on whether to pay approx £30,000 in honoraria payments this year I thought i would share my thoughts on the subject.
Honoraria defined in Oxford English dictionary as “a payment given for professional services that are rendered nominally without charge” is allowed within Unison rules for elected officers.
Many branches do not use it or use expenses instead.
Our branch gives these payments BUT ALSO pays expenses for travel, food and subsistance, or other out of pocket expenses (and if you are a delegate or representatives of the branch you get £20 per day and £40 if your day is over 8 hours)
1. So who get honoraria:
– officers on full release – some officers who are paid there full salary but are released to the branch get this payment on top of their salaries
– officers who have partial release – i.e. who get to attend national conference or others in work time as elected.
– officers or convenors with no permanent release time, other than representing members, or agreed for training or branch meetings.
2. Who doesnt get honoraria:
– staff members of unison (even if they attend protest or events in their own time)
– shop stewards or ordinary members (even if they attend regional council, conference, are delegates to local or national bodies)
3. So why does anyone get this funding:
– if they can do union activity in work time (i.e. those on release, attending national conferences, representing members or attending meetings)
– if they can get expenses, for food, travel, accomodation if needed, out of pocket expenses and £20 daily and £40 if over 8 hours or overnight.
4. What if you have to do work or attend some meeting in your own time:
– shouldnt some use of your own time we expected you have stood for election after all, you must be committed?
– are the other expenses not recompense enough?
– do you only get the honoraria if you do a set number of hours, or you supply evidence of how much work you have done
4. What happens if you are elected and serve the term and do nothing but attend meetings in work time (or worse if you dont even attend branch meetings at all) do you still get the honoraria. – Yes you do – if at the AGM people vote to agree the payments (which they always have – and we don’t get a list of what you have done to earn this “payment”)
5. What if money were tight and needed for other things.
– well this year it is and the branch leadership is proposing we take money out of the strike fund (less than we spend on honoraria) to help fund and post to support and recruit members in the voluntary and community sector. So we are raiding our strike hardship fund, but still paying exceptionally high honoraria.
So in summary I think:
a. We shouldnt just review honoraria payments we should agree to remove them altogether
b. If there is an exceptional circumstance where an elected officer needs release time and it isnt agreed by there employer, we should buy back hours from the employer (we already don this for a number of posts) so the officer has the work time to carry out the functions.
c. We should look at workload for officers posts and prioritise what is important for the branch and if need be share out other work
d. Officer should accept as a norm a certian amount of duties outside work time, evening meetings, regional events, protests, rallies, representing the branch. Some (for instance with caring responsibilities)will be able to do less than others, but we should offer decent expenses including carer expense to make involvement as best as possible for all.
e. We should use the money saved to encourage more stewards, more members to share the workload to attend regional and national events, to represent us at trades councils and local campaigns and give expenses to do so. The £30,000 we will save could help this or contribute towards other posts needed by the branch.
THIS IS VERY MUCH MY IDEAS IN PROGRESS, I AM KEEN TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK AND DISCUSS.
thanks for reading