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#TUBill will limit the amount of paid time off for public sector reps
A new report from the TUC on the benefits of paid time off for union reps provides evidence that the Government’s attack on facility time in the public sector is wrong-headed.
The proposals in the trade union bill are the culmination of a campaign waged by the political right against workplace representation for public sector workers. The measures will allow ministers to arbitrarily reduce the proportion of the pay bill spent on facility time in government departments and any other parts of the public sector they decide, regardless of the views of those services’ management.
The justification for these reforms stems firstly from the view that facility time represents a ‘cost’ and that the funding could be better used elsewhere. The second justification is a mistaken belief that facility time is used not to represent workers individually or collectively but to engage in political campaigning.
Unlike the government and lobby groups on the political right, the TUC has looked at the costs and benefits of allowing paid time off for union reps. Our report updates previous findings on the benefits that result from giving workplace union reps paid time off. These benefits – reducing dismissal and voluntary exit rates, reducing work related injuries and illness amongst others – produce savings that taken together are more than twice the cost of the time off.
Basically, for every £1 spent on facility time, the benefits to the taxpayer are between £2 and £5.
And the report also looks at how well union reps with paid time off are regarded by employers. After all, if it were true that facility time is used for political campaigning rather than to represent workers, one might imagine there would be a number of employers ready to back this up.
Instead the opposite is the case. Public sector employers are vocal in praising the contribution of workplace reps to stable and effective industrial relations. Significant numbers of employer bodies – including the Welsh and Scottish local government bodies – testified to the value of facility time during the committee stages of the trade union bill.
And the report notes that 84% of employer respondents in public sector workplaces which have full-time union reps either agreed or strongly agreed that full-time union reps can be trusted to act with ‘honesty and integrity’.
This report presents the latest evidence to show that the misconceptions about the cost, role and activities of workplace reps fly in the face of the available facts. It is clear that reducing the role for union reps in the public sector will make industrial relations trickier and impact on morale amongst workers. And that will have consequences for the public sector at a time of huge cuts.
These reforms are more to do with restricting the ability of unions to represent their members than with saving money.