Report shows union reps' work in public sector is cost effective

By agency reporter
February 24, 2016

For every £1 spent on paid time off for public sector union reps to represent their members, taxpayers get at least £2.31 back in savings, according to a new study published by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) yesterday (23 February).

The report, based on new analysis of official figures by the University of Bradford, shows that allowing union reps time off to represent their members improves staff retention, reduces illness and boosts industrial relations.

The analysis reveals that in the health sector staff turnover is almost three times lower in workplaces with union representatives than in workplaces without – amounting to a saving of more than £66 million a year for the NHS alone in recruitment costs.

The House of Lords yesterday debated government plans to impose a cap on facility time in the public sector, as part of the Trade Union Bill.

Ministers have argued that the number of union representatives (and therefore the amount of facility time available) in the public sector is ‘excessive’.

However, the report highlights that just 2.8 per cent of public sector workplaces with recognised unions have a union rep that spends all or nearly all of their working time on their representative duties.

Last month, the former of head of the civil service, Bob Kerslake, criticised ministers for trying to dictate the amount of time spent on facility time in the public sector, stating: “This seems to me to be a quite extraordinarily centralising step to take for a government that is championing devolution. Local government at least ought to be trusted to come to its own arrangements.”

The report highlights a recent survey of public sector managers, which found that the vast majority (84 per cent) valued and trusted the work of full-time reps.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Union reps help save taxpayers millions of pounds a year by making workplaces healthier and more productive.

“Paid time off for public sector union reps to represent their members is granted by employers because it is good for staff well-being, improves communication and stops problems escalating into disputes.This government’s decision to cap facility time in the public sector is mean-spirited and incredibly short-sighted. It will serve only to strain industrial relations.”

The report's author Gregor Gall, Professor of Industrial Relations at the University of Bradford, said: “This research lays to bed the myth that facility time is out of control and a drain on public resources. It delivers clear cost benefits and is good for both employers and employees. 

*Read the report Facility time is essential for modern and effective workplace relations here



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