From the TUC

£37 million of new red tape for unions under the #TUbill

21 Jan 2016, by in Politics

Remember the Red Tape Challenge? Every week, the 2010-15 coalition government would stick a pin in the statute book and ask what seemed to be the Daily Mail reader comments panel to let them know which regulations should be axed. The current Cabinet Office website trumpets that they manage to scrap more than 2,400 regulations. The current government is continuing the hunt, with a programme called Cutting Red Tape. According to its site:

“Cutting Red Tape aims to get rid of unnecessary bureaucracy. It intends to shine a light on out of date legislation and confusing implementation of it, such as unhelpful government guidance or needlessly complex inspection regimes, to ensure they make sense.”

Well it seems that they’ve cut so much red tape that they didn’t know what to do with it, and in an attempt to sweep it all under a carpet somewhere, they’ve put it into the Trade Union Bill.

Today the government have published their impact assessment for the Bill – their best guess at how much all the new union red tape will end up costing. The Bill’s bill for unions comes to more than £37 million over the next 6 years.

Here’s a breakdown:

New measures One-off costs Cumulative costs over next 5 years
50% threshold familiarisation £525,000
Changes to balloting rules £543,000 £90,000
Picketing rules changes (familiarisation and legal fees) £525,000
Political fund opt-in change £100,000
Reporting political fund changes £3,000 £15,000
Legal advice on political fund £170,000
Postage cost of notices to members £1,348,388 £1,348,000
Postage costs of members’ returns £1,536,000 £1,536,000
Postage materials £228,000 £228,000
Administrative costs of notices sent to members £565,000 £565,000
Administrative costs of returns £565,000 £565,000
Certification Officer new costs £1,079,000 £5,395,000
Existing Certification Officer costs £850,000 £4,250,000
Fines £275,000
Check-off prohibition familiarisation costs £150,000
Ongoing costs of direct debit £22,000,000
Cost to trade union members of switching to direct debit £3,100,000
Savings from not paying employers for check off -£10,000,000
TOTAL COSTS £11,287,388.00 £26,267,000

That’s a lot of costs for what the government often claim to be “sensible and proportionate” measures. It’s going to be a pretty significant burden on trade unions. So much so you might think that the government was designing it to be expensive.

But it only tells part of the story. We reckon they’ve underestimated the true financial impact this Bill could have for unions.

Taking a few examples:

£525,000 sounds at first like a lot for legal fees and familiarisation with picketing rule changes. But this is being split between all the unions out there, and when broken down the government believe only 5 people per union need to understand the new rules. We think bigger unions are going to want significantly more than 5 people to have a handle on complex new rules that could be easily overlooked and run up large fines if caught out.

The £228,000 on processing fees for postage materials assume workers processing return information from union members will spend 30 seconds opening and actioning each response. That’s quite some work rate being expected of them – sounds to me like those workers need a union!

£170,000 of legal advice on political funds needs to be split between the 25 unions that run funds (and any that want to run them in future) – £6,800 a pop doesn’t buy you a lot of lawyer when you need to rewrite your membership rulebook.

We’re worried the £11 million up front and healthy £26 million ever 5 years thereafter is only for starters, and it’s going to end up costing union members in increased subs or reduced support. As Frances O’Grady said:

“Union members’ subs should be spent on services and support for workers – not wasted on dealing with unnecessary bureaucracy from the government.

UK trade unions are already the most heavily regulated in Western Europe. This Bill is a blatant attempt to make it harder for workers to stand up for decent services and safety at work, or defend their jobs and pay.”

I wonder if there’s anyone out there who can help us address the issue of costly and unnecessary red tape for unions? You know the sort of thing, out of date legislation and confusing implementation, unhelpful guidance or needlessly complex inspection regimes.


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