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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10 Responses to “Workplace representatives save the taxpayer money”

  1. Will Straw

    Times fails to balance costs and benefits of trade unions in Whitehall http://bit.ly/alYfJ

  2. Alison McGovern

    Typical! RT @wdjstraw Times fails to balance costs and benefits of trade unions in Whitehall http://bit.ly/alYfJ

  3. Matthew Taylor

    There’s a difference between the right to facilities – that office space, computers etc. the Times refers to – and actually paying the salaries of the TU reps (which again differs from giving them paid leave to take part in activities like disciplinaries and H&S meetings).

    I’m not sure the DTI study you’re citing dealt with directly paying salary costs, as opposed to time off. Indeed, that study looked at the benefits to employers from unpaid work by reps, suggesting that it was not dealing with “employed” TU reps.

  4. josh

    Hear hear! Great article

  5. JR

    “fewer dismissals resulting in £63 to £125 million savings from reduced rehiring costs”

    Dear god. I’d never join the PCS, the union reps seem to spend most of their time protecting trouble makers and incompetents.

  6. Just another civil servant

    which is where the “evidence-based” study above falls down. “Fewer disputes”? PCS exists only to prolong and manufacture disputes (unless the employer gives in without a quibble to their – say – current 6% pay demands). “Cost of re-hiring”? Needs to be balanced against the cost of keeping unsuitable people in jobs and the HR and other staff (the people who carry them)costs of the union’s headbanging defence of anyone at all.

    The pluses of staff involvement would be much better achieved by non-political staff councils – preferably with statutory underpinning – than expecting the ordinary majority of civil servants to devote their lives to trying to oust far left politicos. And once staff are represented by people with real jobs the time they spend on extra-curricular nonsense will also drop dramatically.

  7. sunny hundal

    RT @wdjstraw: Times fails to balance costs and benefits of trade unions in Whitehall http://bit.ly/alYfJ

  8. Andrew Tweedie

    All cases against employees need to be tested to ensure that employers are not veiling an injustice by claiming that an adequate (and sometimes an excellent) employee is useless. So, sometimes useless staff are doggedly defended but if the case stands against them there is nothing a union rep can do to stop their dismissal.

  9. Just another civil servant

    Andrew –

    they can try to exhaust and bully everyone involved so the price of action dioesn’t seem worth it. I can assure you this site is close to the feelings of most civil servants who have any dealings with pcs http://www.lazycivilservant.com/

  10. Martin McIvor

    Trade unions and waste (2): some reading for Francis Maude… http://t.co/8ksj6Kdq

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