Membership of trade unions, for both public and private sector workers, has been declining for many years: 23.5 per cent were members in 2019. In the public sector, it is at the second lowest level since records began in 1995, at 52.3 per cent. Most male public sector employees are no longer unionised. Yet at least 29 bosses of trade unions with a high concentration of public sector workers were in receipt of total remuneration in excess of £100,000 in 2019.
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 2018-19, staff across the public sector received £81.2 million for trade union facility time duties. Facility time is paid time-off during working hours for trade union representatives to carry out their duties. Direct grants are also given by government departments, police forces, NHS trusts and councils to trade unions.
During the covid-19 pandemic, many teaching unions opposed the reopening of schools before the summer holiday and continued to resist the move before September. This is in spite of the children’s commissioner for England pleading for children to get back in to the classroom “as quickly as possible.”
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The average remuneration of the 29 union bosses on more than £100,000 was £153,935 in 2019.
The highest-paid public sector trade union boss was Sally Hunt, former general secretary of the University and College Union. She received £534,805 in total remuneration including £400,000 for “post employment payments”. This is in spite of her criticising university leaders for pay packets of a similar size on previous occasions.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, received £166,461 in total remuneration. Her gross salary puts her firmly in the top three per cent of earners across the UK.
In 2019, the public sector trade unions with the most senior staff on total remuneration more than £100,000 were the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF) and the POA, with two each.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair and general secretary of the British Medical Association, received £193,414 in total remuneration. His salary alone (£171,000) was over 6 times what a foundation (FY1) doctor working in the NHS receives in 2020 (£28,243).
- Six senior staff at the education unions share £1,296,869 between them.