Past: End taxpayer funded trade unions

Our award-winning Taxpayer Funding of Trade Unions campaign was started in 2010 to expose taxpayers’ subsidy of influential public sector trade unions, who are powerful advocates for higher public spending, higher taxes and burdensome regulation.

Our researchers undertook one of the most comprehensive Freedom of Information campaigns ever. We requested information from over 1,300 public sector bodies, including councils, quangos, the NHS, Whitehall departments and more. This gave us the only comprehensive list of the number of public sector staff working for unions – paid for by the taxpayer. This is referred to as ‘trade union facility time’. 

In 2014 we uncovered £108 million in taxpayer-funded subsidies, equivalent to more than 3,000 full-time staff. After four years of innovative research and sustained campaigning, government ministers acted to cut these subsidies. They have sharply cut the amount of staff time provided to trade unions in the Civil Service and local government. We will continue to fight for ministers to go further and extend those reforms to the NHS and schools, where there are still nurses not nursing and teachers not teaching, but instead working for the trade unions.

In 2016, the Trade Union Act was published and included the following provisions:

  • Payroll deductions for trade union subscriptions will only be administered where the cost is not funded by the public
  • Public sector employers will be required to publish facility time information - detailing how many employees are union officials and how much time they spend on union duties.
  • Industrial action can only go ahead when there has been a ballot turnout of at least 50%

Thanks to our campaign, the Cabinet Office now publishes the amount of trade union facility time provided by public sector bodies. 

We also produce the Trade Union Rich List series, which details all trade unions whose total remuneration to their general secretaries and chief executives exceeded £100,000. The figures are taken directly from the most recent annual returns submitted by the unions themselves.

Our reports often find that many union bosses enjoy considerable pay and increases in their own remuneration.

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