Public Sector Trade Union Rich List


Membership of trade unions, for both public and private sector workers, has been declining for many years: 23.2 per cent were members in 2017. Yet at least 31 bosses of trade unions with a high concentration of public sector workers were in receipt of remuneration in excess of £100,000 in 2017.

Closed-shop workplaces are now illegal, and self-organising in a trade union is an individual’s decision. Nevertheless, the amount of taxpayer subsidy that they receive is vast. In 2017-18, staff across the public sector received at least £79.7 million for trade union facility time duties, on top of their normal salaries.Facility time is paid time-off during working hours for trade union representatives to carry out trade union duties. Direct grants are also given by government departments, police forces, NHS trusts and councils to unions.

Many of the most active unions, such as the RMT that strikes frequently, receive substantially more each year in direct taxpayer subsidy: net government support to the rail industry was £4.2 billion in 2016-17.Students have also lost teaching time and contact hours because of taxpayer-funded lecturers’ intransigence.  An alarming insouciance regarding vice-chancellors’ salaries has also been witnessed.

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Key findings

  • The highest-paid public sector trade union boss was the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, Paul Whiteman. His remuneration was £212,981 in 2017. This included a salary of £161,672, employers’ national insurance contribution of £21,656, pension contribution of £19,970, car benefit of £6,231 and £3,452 for health insurance.

  • Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, received £174,999.

  • The average remuneration of the 31 union bosses on more than £100,000 was £131,198.

  • The trade union with the most senior officers earning more than £100,000 in 2017 was the Fire Brigades Union, with 4 staff members earning above the threshold. This is in spite of membership of the Fire Brigades Union falling by almost 21 per cent between 2011 and 2016.

    4 senior staff at the railway unions (ASLEF, RMT and TSSA) share £496,461 between them.

Click here to read the paper.


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