Brace yourself for the most terrifying statistic you will read this Halloween: trade unions are being subsidised by the taxpayer to the tune of £113 million-a-year. New research by the Taxpayers’ Alliance shows that in 2011-12 £92 million of our money was spent on funding trade union Pilgrims alone.
Taxpayer funding of trade unions 2012
Earlier this month Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude announced plans to reduce the amount of facility time taken in the civil service. This will cut the subsidy that unions receive at taxpayers’ expense. There would still be a substantial subsidy though, and the reforms do not yet apply to the broader public sector.
Earlier TaxPayers’ Alliance research in this area revealed the extent of trade union subsidies across the public sector for the first time. This research updates that evidence of the huge amounts of taxpayers’ money given to trade unions through direct funding or paid staff time from public sector bodies. It also adds new information about the number of public sector bodies automatically deducting trade union subscriptions in the payroll process, often without charging the unions for that additional administrative support.
The key findings of this research are:
Trade unions received a subsidy of at least £113 million at taxpayers’ expense in2011-12. This is made up of an estimated £92 million in paid staff time, plus £21million in direct payments.
At least 3,041 full-time equivalent public sector staff worked on trade union duties at taxpayers’ expense in 2011-12.
While total public sector employment fell by 6.5 per cent from 2011 Q2 to 2012 Q2,1the number of full-time equivalent staff working on union duties in bodies whichprovided data in both years declined from 3,065 to 2,977. That is a fall of less thanthree per cent which suggests the proportion of public sector staff working for tradeunions may be rising.
The number of full-time equivalent staff provided to trade unions is more than 2.5times as large as the workforce of HM Treasury.2
480 public sector organisations (out of the 1,296 surveyed) either did not formallyrecord facility time in 2011-12 or did not provide a clear response for at least oneunion, which means the estimate of 3,041 staff is almost certainly an underestimate.
1,087 public sector organisations deduct membership subscriptions for trade unions.Of those, only 21 per cent, or 233 bodies, charged the unions for thatservice. The most common charge was 2.5 per cent, applied by 74 organisations.
1 Office for National Statistics, Public Sector Employment, Q2 2012, 12 September 2012
2 Office for National Statistics, Public Sector Employment, Q2 2012, 12 September 2012
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In response to a parliamentary question, the Government has released an estimate that facility time is equivalent to 0.14 per cent of the total annual pay bill in the public sector, against 0.04 per cent in the private sector. 0.14 per cent of the public sector pay bill was around £240 million in 2011-12.3 If the number of public sector staff found in this research to be working for the trade unions in 2011-12 were reduced in line with that estimate of the difference between the public and private sectors, 2,172 full-time equivalent public sector staff could return to work, equivalent to saving at least £62.7 million of taxpayers’ money.
The organisation with the highest number of staff working for trade unions was the Department for Work and Pensions with 272 full-time equivalent staff. HMRC had the second highest number with 169 full-time equivalent staff.
Birmingham City Council was the local authority with the highest number of staff working for trade unions with 70 full-time equivalent staff working on trade union business. The second placed local authority was Nottingham City Council with 27 full-time equivalent staff.
The quangos with the highest number of staff working for trade unions were the Scottish Prison Service with 34 full-time equivalent staff, Transport for London also with 34 full-time equivalent staff and Remploy with 30 full-time equivalent staff.
In Wales, the Welsh Government had the highest number of full-time equivalent staff working for the trade unions at 14.
In Northern Ireland, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust had the highest number of full-time equivalent staff working for the trade unions at 17.
The police force with the highest number of full-time equivalent staff working for the trade unions (not including the Police Federation) is the Metropolitan Police with 16 full-time equivalent staff.
The fire service with the highest number of full-time equivalent staff working for the trade unions is East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service with 4 full-time equivalent staff.