Tory attack on union reps is based on ideology not the facts
What started as murmurings of discontent amongst right-wing Tory backbench MPs and in the offices of the so-called Tax Payers’ Alliance has now been given the full throated support of the Government. Yes, despite the world standing on the edge of an economic disaster that would apparently make us yearn for the Autumn of 2008, war has been declared, but not on the banks who caused the original crash and who are stalling the recovery but on union reps who get paid time off to represent their colleagues.
In a move dressed up as an effort to save taxpayers money (isn’t it always) but that in reality is nothing more than a bone thrown to far right Tory MPs, Eric Pickles and Francis Maude yesterday used the Tory party conference to attack paid release for union reps.
Mr Pickles, ever the storm trooper of the Tory grass roots, suggested that all union reps do is raise money for the Labour party and Mr Maude, portrayed by many as a pragmatist amongst the ideologues, obviously got caught up in the conference moment and suggested that the support for union reps had got “way out of hand”. Despite the fact that the last review of the arrangements for time off for union reps was only completed by ACAS a few years ago, Mr Maude hinted strongly at another review (the cost to the tax payer of this will be monitored closely).
Now of course none of this comes as surprise. Such is the hatred of unions by elements within the Tory party and far right front organisations such at the Tax Payers Alliance that they have no scruples whatsoever about using the state of the economy to disguise their ideologically motivated war against unions.
Their prejudices and misconceptions about the role and activities of workplace union reps and the amount of paid time off most reps get fly in the face of all available facts.
FACT – Most senior reps get no more than 10 hours per week paid release
FACT – Many union reps in the public sector give up more of their own time to cover union duties than they get from their employer
FACT – Employers are only legally obliged to give reasonable PAID time for reps to take part in Industrial Relations activity
FACT – No union rep gets paid release to work for any political party
FACT – The work that union reps do is valued by employers and actually SAVES money for employers and the taxpayer.
Not long after the election in May 2010, the TUC ran a series of national and regional round tables on facility time, warning unions of this emerging threat and encouraging officers and senior reps to review the arrangements they had with employers, particularly in the public sector. It’s clear now that this work will have to be stepped up and the TUC will be offering support to unions at every level.