Nov 2011 25

- Taxpayer funding of trade unions has increased from last year
- The value of direct grants to trade unions is higher than that shown last year
- The Government says that even a reduction in levels of paid for trade union time to private sector levels would save millions each year

In one of the most extensive Freedom of Information campaigns ever carried out, the TaxPayers’ Alliance has calculated the value of the direct grants and paid time off that trade unions receive and found that it has increased significantly from last year to £113 million. There are now at least the equivalent of 2,840 full time staff working on trade union activities or duties at taxpayers’ expense, an increase of 32 from last year (only counting organisations which provided data for both years).

Click here for the full report, including a breakdown of local councils, fire authorities, NHS PCTs and trusts and more

On Wednesday 30 November public sector trade unions will conduct one of the largest and most widespread strikes ever seen in the UK. Our findings reveal they do so with even more taxpayers’ money than last year. Earlier this year Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude MP and local government Minister Bob Neill MP acknowledged public and parliamentary concern about paid time off for trade union activities and duties.

If the number of public sector staff working for trade unions were reduced to levels seen in the private sector (where facility time is 0.04 per cent of the annual bill), then 2,028 full-time equivalent staff could return to frontline services, equivalent to saving taxpayers £57.2 million.

Key findings:

  • Trade Unions received £113 million of funding from taxpayers in 2010-11. That is an estimated £80 million in paid staff-time plus £33 million in direct payments. That is £7 million more in direct payments than 2009-10 (although the Skills Funding Agency was unable to provide figures for its legacy organisation in 2009-10)
  • At least 2,840 full time equivalent public sector staff worked on trade union activities or duties at taxpayers’ expense in 2010-11. This means that there are now more taxpayer-funded trade unionists in the UK than British Transport Police officers (2,835)
  • At organisations which provided data for both the years covered in this note, there was an increase of 32 full time equivalent public sector staff from 2009-10
  • Our figure of 2,840 is almost certainly an underestimate. Bodies that do not record facility time acknowledge that staff do utilise it. For example, Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust in the North West have 42 union stewards who meet regularly, but the time they spend on this is not recorded
  • 257 organisations kept no record of the time taken off by staff to carry out union duties
  • In the public sector 0.14 per cent of the annual pay bill is spent on facility time, compared to 0.04 per cent in the private sector. If the number of public sector staff working for trade unions were reduced by the same ratio 2,028 full-time equivalent staff could return to frontline services, equivalent to saving taxpayers £57.2 million 
  • The organisation with the highest number of staff working on trade union activities was the Department for Work and Pensions, with 308 full time equivalent staff. HMRC had the second highest number, with 181 full time equivalent staff
  • Birmingham City Council was the local authority with the highest number, with nearly 62 full time equivalent staff working on trade union activities and duties. The second and third placed local authorities were Coventry with 29 and Nottingham, with 26
  • The top quangos were Defence Equipment and Support with 36, Transport for London with 31 and Remploy with 29
  • The organisation in Scotland with the most employees on union duties was the Scottish Prison Service, who had 34 full time equivalent staff
  • In Wales, Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board came top with nearly 11
  • In Northern Ireland, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust had the most with 16 full time equivalents
  • The top police force was the Metropolitan Police Force who had 16 full time equivalent staff undertaking union duties

Click here for the full report, including a breakdown of local councils, fire authorities, NHS PCTs and trusts and more

Matthew Sinclair, Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“Taxpayers shouldn’t be funding staff to work for trade unions, providing them with a huge activist base to support strikes and freeing up resources for political campaigns.  Paying for the salaries of full-time union staff and the many grants the unions receive is yet another burden on hard pressed families, diverting money they expect to be spent on frontline services.  The Government need to take action and end this scandalous subsidy for unions disrupting services in a vain attempt to stop necessary restraint in public spending.”

Click here for the full report, including a breakdown of local councils, fire authorities, NHS PCTs and trusts and more

Britain's independent grassroots campaign for lower taxes