Union defends facility time from Tory assault

Tim Lezard
Eric Pickles

Eric Pickles

The GMB has accused Eric Pickles of “not having a clue” about trade unions after the local government secretary yesterday launched an attack on reps.

Speaking to the Conservative Councillors Association in Oxford, Pickles set out a ten-point plan to cut facility time, saying: “For too long in the public sector, trade unions have received taxpayer funding that is poor value for money and inadequately controlled.

“Reducing such public subsidies to trade unions is a practical way that councils can save money, to keep council tax down and protect frontline services for local residents – including union members themselves.

“Trade union activities and campaigning in local councils should be funded by members’ subscriptions, not bankrolled by the taxpayer.

“Freedom from state dependency will mean that trade union bosses will better reflect and respond to the wishes and views of the grassroots members who pay the bill.”

He suggested only allowing council staff to work for unions in their spare time, charging councils for collecting subscriptions and a ban on strike material.

His comments were attacked by Brian Strutton, the GMB’s national secretary for public services, who said: “Eric Pickles doesn’t have a clue what trade union representatives do and he’s just lashing out because the Tories are losing the plot.

“It is disgraceful that he is attacking ordinary working people, most of whom are women, who have volunteered to represent their colleagues at work.

“In local authorities these trade union reps are highly valued by employers for the work they do yet the paid time off they get from their job is less than the recent cabinet office guidance issued by Francis Maude recommends. These trade union workplace representatives are being insulted by this unjustified attack.

“All the reps we have do a huge amount unpaid in their own time as well. Due to the terrible cuts Eric Pickles has landed on local authorities the trade union representatives have been constantly dealing with job losses, service reductions, reorganisations, transfers and all manner of other difficult and stressful problems. It is a valuable and necessary role and what these representatives do should be applauded not derided.

“These trade union workplace representatives are being insulted by this unjustified attack.”

* Read a report by NatCen Central Research that shows facility time saves the taxpayer money, cuts the number of strikes and disputes and improves workplace relations.

 * TUC national organiser Carl Roper reveals the Tories’ secret strategy behind attacks on facility time. Read it here.




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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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