Membership of trade unions, for both public and private sector workers, has been declining for many years: 23.4 per cent were members in 2018. In the public sector, it is at the lowest level since records began in 1995, down by more than 5 per cent to 11.6 per cent. In the private sector, it has almost disappeared, at a measly 2.6 per cent in 2018. Yet at least 30 bosses of trade unions with a high concentration of public sector workers were in receipt of remuneration in excess of £100,000 in 2018.
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 £85.9 million for trade union facility time duties. 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 trade 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 £6.4 billion in 2017-18.
The average remuneration of the 30 union bosses on more than £100,000 was £144,168. This is an increase of £12,970 from the previous year.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, received £167,604 in total remuneration. Her gross salary puts her firmly in the top 3 per cent of earners.
- The trade union with the most senior officers earning more than £100,000 in 2018 was once again the Fire Brigades Union, with 4 staff members still 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 (the most recent figures available).
- The highest-paid public sector trade union bosses were the joint general secretaries of the National Education Union, Kevin Courtney and Dr. Mary Bousted, who received £217,501 and £187,557. This higher figure included a salary of £170,269, employers’ national insurance contribution of £21,968, and a pension contribution of £25,264.
- Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair and general secretary of the British Medical Association, received £193,445 in total remuneration, over 7 times what a foundation (FY1) doctor working in the NHS receives: £27,146.
- 4 senior staff at the railway unions (ASLEF, RMT and TSSA) share £514,900 between them.
- 8 senior staff at the education unions share £1,349,492 between them.