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Revealed: The full cost of union membership; TAXPAYERS' ALLIANCE CLAIMS.

Byline: DAVID WILLIAMSON Political Editor david.williamson@walesonline.co.uk

TAXPAYERS are funding trade union activities in the public sector at a cost of more than PS90m a year, it will be claimed today.

The TaxPayers' Alliance will state in a new report that the equivalent of a minimum of 3,041 full-time staff worked on trade union duties in 2011-12.

It estimates trade unions received an estimated PS92m in paid staff time.

The campaigning group claims that in Wales in the same year the time spent on trade union activities was the equivalent of 108.63 full-time positions at a cost of just over PS3m.

The TaxPayers' Alliance has calculated that the Welsh Government had the equivalent of 14 staff working full-time for trade unions. However, the Welsh Government has calculated it is the equivalent of nine people.

Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "It is simply wrong that taxpayers are seeing their money used to pay thousands of trade union activists who organise strikes which disrupt the services they rely on and pay for handsomely."

But a spokesman said: "In 2011-12, there were nine FTE trades union staff working for the Welsh Government. As a responsible employer, we place the utmost importance on valuing the contribution our employees make in delivering the Welsh Government's priorities.

"That is why we work in partnership with trades unions, who play a vital role in representing their members' interests on a wide range of issues, including developing their skills and helping the organisation to manage change." Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards also defended the system, saying: "As the son of a trade union shop steward I fully support the public subsidy of trade unions by allowing public sector workers to perform trade union functions in addition to their post. This helps secure good industrial relations by protecting the interests of staff within organisations.

"What is of more concern to me is the continuing funding of the Labour party by the trade union leadership. Labour, as we saw in this week's Public Service Pension Bill in Westminster, actively operates against the interests of trade unionists."

Paul Davies, Shadow Assembly Minister for Finance, called for change, saying: "At a time when money is scarce, all public bodies should be making efforts to ensure every pound of taxpayers' money is wisely invested.

I welcome the moves made by the Conservative-led Government to examine the role of trade union officials in Whitehall and ensure value for money for the public purse.

"I would urge local authorities and the Welsh Government to follow their lead and commit to rooting out any wasteful spending and stop subsidising the political agenda of trade unions. Given that the majority of the Labour Party's income is from the trade unions, I suspect Labour Ministers will continue to turn a blind eye to any excessive spending on trade union activities at the expense of frontline public services."

Conservative Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said: "We recognise that trade unions play an important role in the modern workplace. But we think trade union facility time arrangements in the Civil Service should reflect those in business and the wider public sector.

"For too long there has been insufficient monitoring of union work done by civil servants during their working hours. And some civil servants were able to spend years doing nothing but trade union work. That isn't fair to the taxpayer or other civil servants. That's why we are limiting the amount of time civil servants can spend on trade union work and introducing a benchmark which will slash the cost of facility time to the taxpayer.

"Any exemptions to these arrangements will be reported for all to see and scrutinise."

The TaxPayers' Alliance based its research on Freedom of Information requests but it noted that 480 public sector organisations out of 1,296 surveyed did not provide full records about time off from a regular paid job to fulfil a trade union role.

TIME OFF FOR UNION WORK Organisations with more than 10 full-time equivalent staff granted "facility time" to do trade union work in 2011-12 Organisation Staff time 2011-12 (FTE) Department for Work & Pensions 272.0 HMRC 169.2 Ministry of Justice 155.1 Ministry of Defence 117.7 Birmingham City Council 70.4 Scottish Prison Service 34.1 Transport for London (TfL) 34.0 Remploy 29.6 Nottingham City Council 27.3 Glasgow City Council 25.4 Defence Support Group 23.0 NHS Lothian 22.6 Crown Prosecution Service 22.0 HM Land Registry 21.0 Kirklees Council 20.5 Child Support Agency 20.0
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 31, 2012
Words:767
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