Unions say research proves trade unions boost productivity in the workplace


Unions today said that Eric Pickles had got it wrong on trade union facility time – far from costing taxpayers money, trade union involvement has a very positive impact on the workplace.

Research commissioned by the Department for Business in 2007 suggested that effective and engaged union representation saves the public purse between £170m and £400m a year by improving retention, training take-up, health and safety, and dispute resolution; and as much as £3.6bn a year through general productivity gains.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Attacking trade unions who work with employers to create an efficient, more motivated workplace is just plain daft. Workers have a right to be represented.

“If trade union stewards are going to represent staff properly, they need time away from their usual jobs to do it. Public sector reps already contribute up to 100,000 unpaid hours every week. What’s more, collective bargaining saves cash. If councils or the NHS had to negotiate individually with all their staff, they would be forced to spend a fortune on consultants or mediators.

“Public services are facing savage cut backs and workers have a right to have their voices heard and rightly expect their union reps to be there to help them when they need them most.

“Trade union facility time makes good business sense, and any attempts to cut it will end up costing the taxpayer money.”

Prospect deputy general secretary Dai Hudd also condemned the proposals, saying: “Party conferences are no place to announce such a one-sided and narrow minded attack on unions in the public sector and the civil service.

“It may play well at this target audience, but today’s statement reeks of old-style Tory prejudice and spite. Choosing now to open such a consultation will do nothing to help industrial relations and is particularly thoughtless, given the parlous state of the pensions talks.

“What’s more, the evidence points to the fact that reps in the public sector actually save the government millions of pounds a year.”

A government study in 2007 (http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file36336.pdf) showed that union reps in the public sector save the taxpayer between £167m and £397m every year by helping resolve disputes and reducing staff turnover. The same research suggested that reps in the public sector may be worth as much as £1.2bn to £3.6bn in productivity gains.


Also 99% of staff representatives receive no facility time from departments beyond the standard facilities every employer is bound to provide recognised trade union representatives by the ACAS code of practice.



–      A report for the Department of Trade and Industry in 2007, said that the UK’s 350,000 workplace reps brought in benefits worth £476 million to £1,133 million annually.

–      A TUC report in December 2009 said that trade union involvement boosted productivity by making people feel listened to, and more in control of their working lives.

– Reps in the public sector contribute up to 100,000 unpaid hours of their own time each week to carry out their union duties, the research showed. This is time that directly benefits public services and the people who work in them.

– The DTI estimates this productivity boost is worth between £3.4 billion, and £10.2 billion to the economy.

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