Thomas Bridge 01 March 2013

Pickles: Councils should cut union facility time to save funds

Councils should adopt a private sector approach to unions and cut spending on facility time, local government secretary Eric Pickles has said.

Advising local authorities on how to cut spending on union activities, Pickles has told town halls to significantly reduce time permitted for workers to attend trade union activities and limit facility time to a set percentage of an organisation’s pay bill.

Time off for union matters should be unpaid and restrictions placed on the use of office space and facilities – including printing equipment – for trade union representatives.

Council employees should not be spending a majority of their working hours on trade union duties, Pickles said.

Councillors must declare payments and sponsorships from trade unions to ensure there is not a conflict of interest, he advised.

Pickles said: ‘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 also mean that trade union bosses will better reflect and respond to the wishes and views of the grassroots members who pay the bill.’

GMB national secretary, Brian Strutton, said: ‘It is disgraceful that he is attacking ordinary working people, most of whom are women, who have volunteered to represent their colleagues at work.

‘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 reps have been constantly dealing with job losses, service reductions, reorganisations, transfers and all manner of other difficult and stressful problems.’

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