Pressure continues to grow for action to cut taxpayer funding of trade unions

A new dossier of evidence demonstrating how trade unions are abusing the subsidies they get from the taxpayer has today been published by Witham MP, Priti Patel.

Citing our recent research note, Taxpayer funding of trade unions 2011,  Ms Patel’s dossier – as previewed over the weekend in the Sunday Express  – makes the case for urgent reforms.

Ms Patel has uncovered:

  • Examples of how unions encourage their members to abuse taxpayer-funded facility time by stretching the definition of what counts as legitimate union activity. She cites a Unison guide to facility time which instructs its members: “…Although you’re entitled to unpaid time off to attend conference, branch meetings, etc., why not try to get those activities covered by your paid time off?”;
  • Examples of trade unionists with public sector jobs using taxpayer-funded time for political campaigns against the cuts being implemented by the Government. Cases highlighted in the dossier include a PCS union official abusing taxpayer-funded resources to promote the “Blackpool Against the Cuts” campaign (alongside evidence that the PCS trade union has formally advised its reps to abuse facility time);
  • How the taxpayer subsidy to the unions is increased further when councils or other public sector organisations provide them with free office space. Camden Council has been providing free of charge a disused council building for nine taxpayer-funded union officials organising anti-cuts campaigns – resources worth hundreds of thousands of pounds;
  • Abuse of the money given to unions by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills via the Union Learning Fund – with over £20,000 now being repaid by the TUC, by order of the Skills Minister, after the cash was found to have been used to publish politically inappropriate material;
  • Details of the millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money channelled to unions through European Union funds, some of which is merely paying to train trade unionists in organising and activism, and for which they are then awarded Diplomas and Certificates.

Ms Patel’s dossier – which you can download here – has been passed to David Cameron and Cabinet Office Minister, Francis Maude, for further consideration and is an extremely valuable contribution to the ongoing debate about taxpayer funding of trade unions.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance will continue to make the point that while it is perfectly legitimate for trade unions to represent their members’ interests, it is simply unfair and wrong that taxpayers’ money should be subsidising them: all union activities should be funded by their members’ subscriptions.

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