Resolution: Caseworker / Support Worker

Jubilee South and East London Line branch has submitted the following resolution to the April meeting of the Regional Council:

This Regional Council supports the following proposal from Chris Carroll ...

Caseworker/Support Worker - Proposal


When management want to take any action against our members they use the services of Human Resources (HR) and Employee Relations (ER) to prosecute these actions against our members. It then falls to our members, along with their TU reps, to deal with the flow of management actions to the best of their ability, resources and time. A very significant challenge that our members and TU reps face is in managing and analysing the “evidence” that management produce, gathering and analysing information that supports the member and obtaining details of similar cases that help the member or serve as useful comparator(s)/disparator(s) for internal hearings or Employment Tribunal hearings.

There is a reason why companies have invested heavily in HR IT and case management systems. Theses systems give management a significant advantage in the kind of workplace they are seeking to create and in prosecuting their actions against members and reps alike. The Companies provide their management with the assistance of well resourced and often bespoke operations to assist them against our members. This proposal seeks to provide the trade union and its members and reps with support that will help them deal with these companies, their management, these HR/ER departments and their internal and external legal advisors.

The current state of affairs puts our trade union, its members and reps at a great disadvantage. The members and reps face even greater difficulties defending/advocating their position because of the greater strain they are facing just managing the case, its associated evidence/paperwork and verifying the reliability of the evidence available. These difficulties are often compounded by changes in reps, (for a multitude of reasons), and the very different levels of training, expertise and experience amongst the rep population.

At the same time the trade union is not building a central computerised database of cases that will provide a valuable resource for training, comparators/disparators and identifying management trends and tactics against our members.

Despite the disparity in resources between the trade union and these companies it is possible to redress this power imbalance, efficiently, and economically. Thereby, the trade union will be able to provide our members and reps with a support service that will significantly improve the help and support available to members and reps; helping member and rep alike to achieve the best outcome possible for our individual members when they are personally under attack from management.

The Proposal:

In the short term I suggest that the RMT funds a six month trial of the following Caseworker/Support Worker initiative reporting to the London Regional Organiser or General Secretary (or as deemed appropriate). This trial should be implemented by one person fulfilling the proposed role. If necessary, in order to minimise cost to the trade union the role should be preformed on a part time basis of 25 hours per week (pro rata to the Membership Officer pay grade).

The initiative should be continuously evaluated against benchmarks established at the outset of the trial.

Other than the part time six month salary there are no other costs involved in this initiative. No office space is required, no additional workspace, computer facilities, training or other expenses are required for the trial.

The role:

The role of the Caseworker/Support Worker will be to receive from the members or reps copies of the paperwork they are receiving in connection with the case they are dealing with in the workplace. This will include: evidence, disciplinary packs and interviews. In addition, the Support Worker will receive evidence that the member/rep has gathered. This will include notes, memos, witness statements, print outs, emails, documents gathered in person or through other appropriate means; for example, the Data Protection Act (DPA), Medical Records Act, Freedom of Information Act (FOI).

The Caseworker/Support Worker will be expected to provide advice and guidance on how to properly obtain evidence and personal data in the workplace; including use of the DPA and FOI application process

The Caseworker/Support Worker will scan and index the documentation received and attach these electronic files to a Case Detail database created for each member. These Case Details will record the member’s details, the rep’s details and updated actions as the case progresses. Linked to each Case Detail file will be the scanned and indexed information.

The Caseworker/Support Worker will be expected to provide filtered data from the database as requested. The Caseworker/Support Worker will also be expected to continuously seek to develop the functionality and usefulness of the database for the trade union’s members, reps, officers and wider industrial activities.

The Caseworker/Support Worker will be expected to provide training and information sessions to members, representatives and branches on a regular basis with regard to employment rights, employment tribunal outcomes and employer actions against members.

The Benefit:

The benefits will be as follows: (i) Members and reps will have a central and indexed electronic store of the information that they have received or uncovered with regard to their particular case. (ii) This electronic store will make it easier for members and reps to discuss and circulate the case between themselves and with other relevant members or reps. (iii) If the case is escalated to senior reps/officers this electronic store will enable the higher level reps to much more easily and quickly acquaint themselves with the facts of the case and latest information; and the kind of evidence that has been relied upon by management, members and past reps. (iv) If the member has to pursue an Employment Tribunal claim the electronic store of indexed evidence will aid the member in their L1/L2 application. In turn the RMT’s solicitors when assessing the merits of the L1/L2 application will have a more complete history of the case. Even if the member is unsuccessful in his/her L1/L2 application, for whatever reason, the member will be able to more easily pursue their claim with or without a non-RMT solicitor if they wish to do so. (v) As this will be an electronic database the union will be able to filter the information gathered to provide empirical evidence of the number and type of HR actions that companies are pursuing against our members. (vi) An electronic database of this kind will provide a central store of cases and comparators/disparators that will enable members and reps in future cases to quickly provide proof of discriminatory or disparate treatment by the company in relation to a member (or members) in comparison with previous management actions affecting other members of staff. (vii) The trade union will have a source of verifiable information with regard to particular cases and general issues that will aid and support industrial actions and strategy. (viii) Members and representatives will have a source of support, advice and training that better equips them to prepare for internal and external hearings, successfully gather evidence and efficiently and with minimal effort meet the demands of other professionals (eg solicitors) and trade unions colleagues who become involved in the specific case.

The Feasibility:

This proposal is very feasible and cost effective. I already provide this kind of support. (i) I have adapted a Microsoft ACCESS 2007 database for use as described above. (ii) I already receive documentation from members and reps, scan it, index it and distribute it as required. (iii) It is already possible for me to provide this service in an efficient and timely manner from my home computer with my fairly efficient multi-feed automatic document feeder scanner. The RMT has copiers that scan documents even more quickly and efficiently. This scanning function is already installed and online pending only suitable staff training. (iii) The service I have provided has proved of critical usefulness in supporting reps and members at internal hearings and in successfully pursuing employment tribunal cases. (iv) As this database develops and more cases are entered the trade union will have a significant and accessible resource to identify HR trends against our members, to identify training needs and spread good practice and experience amongst reps. This database will efficiently provide comparator/disparator evidence for members and reps to illustrate unfair and/or discriminatory and/or inconsistent actions by management against members.

The Future:

Apparently when the current “Membership” software was purchased there was an option to purchase “Case Management” software as part of the overall package. At the time this was not taken up.

If the six month trial of this Case Management/Support Worker position is supported then there will be an opportunity to evaluate the trial and take a view on its success, role expansion and its wider implementation within the current Membership function or elsewhere. There are many ways this service and database can be developed once established. Including, establishing the database in the long term as a online service that members (and reps) can securely access and use as an advice resource, as secure documentation storage and update personally.