Union reps improve safety and save employers money: TUC UK

Wednesday, 01 February 2012

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has hit back at claims that public-sector union representatives cost British taxpayers more than £100 million ($A148 million) a year, saying they save employers hundreds of millions of pounds in reduced injury rates and recruitment costs.

According to a new TUC report, a 2007 review conducted by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills found the UK's work-related injury and illness rates were lower in unionised workplaces, resulting in savings to employers of between £171 million and £578 million per annum.

Dismissal and voluntary exit rates were also lower in unionised workplaces, saving employers up to £356 million a year in recruitment costs.

"For every £1 spend on trade union facility time in the public sector... between £2 and £5 is returned in accrued benefits," the TUC report said.

The report was written by Industrial Relations Professor Gregor Hall of Hertfordshire University, and prompted by a Government-commissioned study (undertaken by what Hall called a "right-wing pressure group") that found £113 million of taxpayers' money was used to support the activities of union representatives in the public sector in the 2010/11 financial year.

"Crucially, what was missing from the [study] was any consideration of the benefits which might accrue to the tax payer and wider public from supporting the work of trade union representatives," the report said.

"In other words, the [study] made no attempt to undertake a 'cost-benefit' analysis of the role of union reps in the public sector."

The TUC said it hoped the British Government's "forthcoming reviews of facilities and facility time in the civil service and local government will be evidence-based".

"It is crucial that any such reviews consider the benefits of supporting union representatives, and not just the costs of supporting such arrangements," it said.

The report noted that union reps in the UK public sector contributed up to 100,000 unpaid hours of their own time each week, and that the benefits of union representation "are spread across the whole workforce, not just those in membership".