Workplace representatives save the taxpayer money

The Times report today that, "Labour is funding trade union activity inside Whitehall with millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money." The truth, as ever, is more complicated. The practice has been in place for years and benefits from workplace representation across the public sector are estimated at £167 to £397 million.

The Times report today that, “Labour is funding trade union activity inside Whitehall with millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.” In what Tim Montgomerie on Conservative Home calls “the story of the day,” the article outlines that:

“Ten departments have revealed that they employ 46 full-time and 87 part-time officials to work exclusively for the unions at taxpayers’ expense. Their salaries cost between £150,000 and £4.5 million per department. They are also given access to office space, computers and photocopiers worth an estimated £1.2 million each year.”

The truth, as ever, is more complicated. The practice has been in place for years and benefits from workplace representation across the public sector are estimated at £167 to £397 million.

Using evidence from a 2007 DTI consultation document on “Workplace representatives” and assuming that benefits are spread evenly across private and public sector organisations, which employ 35 per cent of all workplace representatives, the study shows:

  • annual benefits of £32 to 55 million from skills and training
  • fewer dismissals resulting in £63 to £125 million savings from reduced rehiring costs
  • quicker dispute resolution saving £8 to £15 million
  • reduced illnesses and injuries resulting in savings of £63 to £202 million

In addition to this, the general productivity gains associated with effective employee representation may be saving the public sector as much as £1.2bn to £3.6bn every year

Public and Commercial Services Union spokesperson Alex Flynn said:

“This is an established custom and practice which is enshrined in law and which both Labour and Conservative governments have recognised is important to the successful and efficient running of government departments. Facility time is under review but it has fallen. Indeed, there was more facility time under the Thatcher Government than there is now.”

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