From the TUC

Union reps: A better investment than a FTSE250 company

24 Jan 2012, By

Today, the TUC releases new research that shows the significant benefits that workplace union reps produce for employers and taxpayers.  The report also reveals serious inaccuracies in figures used by the so-called Taxpayers Alliance relating to the cost of paid time off.

“Facility Time for union reps – separating fact from fiction” not only updates the value of the savings to employers and the taxpayer that result from the work that reps do, but also reveals a significant return on investment in relation to the cost of the paid time off that reps receive.

The research, conducted for the TUC by the University of Hertfordshire’s Work and Employment Research Unit found that the total savings for employers and therefore the tax payer that result from the work union reps carry out in the PUBLIC sector equate to a value of up £586 million per annum.  This means that for every £1 spent on paid time off for union reps in the public sector (using even the disputed TPA cost estimate of £113m pa) between £2 and £5 is return in accrued benefits: a significant return on investment.

The research also reveals serious flaws in the methodology used by the so-called TPA and other organisations to estimate the alleged cost of facility time.

For example, you may have thought that those great unions such as APEX, ASTMS and MSF no longer existed? You’d be correct of course, but alleged payments to them are included in the figure calculated by the TPA.

You may be aware of the good works undertaken by organisations such as the General Medical Council, the British Orthodontic Society and the Alliance of Charters Towers State Schools. If you are, you’ll no doubt be surprised to hear them described as trade unions.  They aren’t of course, but they are included in the TPA’s dodgy figures.

And if you’ve ever heard of any of these organisations – NMC SHA, HTCC and GAB – let alone think that they’re trade unions, then you join a very small group of people (yes that’s right, the TPA).

Here at the TUC, we are trying hard NOT to believe the rumour that the TPA’s original draft also listed organisations called TTFN, OMG and LOL. 

If you strip out the alleged payments to these organisations and other inaccuracies (yes there are more) then the true “cost” of paid time off for workplace union reps comes to around £80m pa.  This increases the return on investment figure to between £3 and £9 for every £1 spent.  A return you’d struggle to get from many FTSE250 companies.

There is a serious point to this.  It appears that the TPA and their fellow travellers in TURC are so desperate to hide their ideological hatred of unions that they appear prepared to cobble together any old figures and call it research to gloss over their prejudice.

It’s a shame that the government has to waste time dealing with such people.  Instead, they should listen to employers who are of course are fully aware of the value of workplace union reps.  That’s why you will rarely, if ever, hear the TPA or TURC mention them.  But we’re happy to give the final word (for now at least) to three senior managers, all of whom (probably unlike anyone connected with the TPA and TURC) have real day to day experience of working with workplace union reps.

‘We value the partnership working that has been developed with our unions and believe that it is important staff get time to participate fully in the partnership and in staff representation roles. As a result we have been able to develop a range of effective policies, managed workforce reductions without recourse to compulsory redundancies and reduced workplace conflict’.

Nick Parker, Head of Human Resources, Airedale NHS Foundation Trust

“We greatly value the contribution made by workplace union reps at Merseytravel and the relationship that managers have with them.  We regard the cost of paid time off as an investment on which the organisation has had a significant return, reducing sickness and grievances, supporting succession planning and improvements to customer care.”

Liz Chandler, Director of Corporate Development, Merseytravel

“Newcastle City Council has sustained excellent industrial relations through an extended period of unprecedented change.  The full support of trade Unions and the involvement of workers from across the organisation has been instrumental in helping us achieve budget savings of £44m in the current financial and to develop proposal to save a further £30m next year. Many of these proposals arise from the innovation and ideas of our staff, and the contribution of Trade Union workplace reps has been an important part of that success”.

Barry Rowland, Chief Executive, Newcastle City Council

You can access the full report (pdf) here.