Membership of trade unions – for both public and private sector workers – has been declining for many years: 23.7 per cent were members in 2020. In the public sector, trade union membership is at the joint-lowest level since records began in 1995, at 51.9 per cent. Most male public sector employees are no longer unionised. Yet at least 30 bosses of trade unions with a high concentration of public sector workers were in receipt of total remuneration in excess of £100,000 in 2020.
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 2019-20, staff across the public sector received £74 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.
Following the covid-19 pandemic, nine teachers’ unions opposed the reopening of schools in March and called for a ‘phased’ return. 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.”
The average total remuneration of the 30 union bosses on more than £100,000 was £150,755 in 2020.
The highest-paid public sector trade union boss was Tim Roache, former general secretary of GMB. He received £288,000 in total remuneration.
In 2020, Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, received £167,229 in total remuneration. Her gross salary alone puts her in the top three per cent of earners across the UK. This was an increase on her 2019 total remuneration. Her gross salary was equivalent to 22 times the average amount for a recipient of universal credit.
The public sector trade union with the most senior staff on total remuneration more than £100,000 was the Fire Brigades Union with four. These four officers all received pension contributions equivalent to between 51 and 78 per cent of their gross salaries.
The British Medical Association, the National Education Union, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, and the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) all had two each.
Dr. Chaand Nagpaul, chair and general secretary of the British Medical Association, received £203,633 in total remuneration, an increase of 5 per cent on the previous year. His salary alone (£180,000) was over 6 times what a foundation (FY1) doctor working in the NHS receives in 2021 (£28,808).
- Eight senior staff at the education unions shared £1,252,709 between them.