By Amy Jackson, Unite parliamentary liaison
At Cabinet Office Questions this morning with Francis Maude, the government was engaging in their usual doublespeak. Despite saying they recognise the important role that trade union reps play in effectively resolving problems early and locally, the questions from Tory MPs and Maude's responses were yet another attack on trade union rights.
The drastic reduction in the number of representatives with facility time in the civil service from 200 to only 12, shows a government whose priorities are to attack facility time, not support it.
The facts about facility time give us a very different picture than the one created by Tory Ministers. Far from being costs to the taxpayers or employers, trade union reps and the work they do represent an important workplace resource for both workers and employers in the public and private sectors.
The most recent comprehensive assessment of the contribution by union reps towards improved business performance was made by the then Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform in 2007 as part of the previously mentioned review of union reps facilities and facility time. The report found that the work of union reps resulted in:
• Savings to employers and the exchequer of between £22m - £43m as a result of reducing the number of Employment Tribunal cases;
• Benefits to society worth between £136m - £371m as a result of reducing working days lost due to workplace injury and;
• Benefits to society worth between £45m - £207m as a result of reducing work related illness.
In addition, using the same formulae as used in the BERR report but with updated figures, it can reasonably be estimated that the work of union reps also results in:
• Overall productivity gains worth between £4bn to 12bn to the UK economy;
• Savings of at least £19 million as a result of reducing dismissals;
• Savings to employers of between £82m - £143m in recruitment costs as a result of reducing early exits.
The facts speak for themselves. At a time of economic instability and huge inequality, we need stronger trade unions, not weaker ones.
Click here for the TUC briefing on Facility Time
Click here for the Unite briefing on Facility Time