Think-tank says taxpayers are handing over £113m to unions

Ben Southwood
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TAXPAYERS are forking out to subsidise trade unions as the state pays public sector workers to perform union duties, a think-tank claimed this morning.

The total hours public employees spent on union duties amounted to the equivalent of 3,041 full time workers – two and a half times more workers than HM Treasury – the Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) said, costing taxpayers some £92m in the 2011-12 financial year. Combined with some £21m in direct payments, taxpayers are showering public sector unions with at least £113m, the think-tank showed.

The group says its figures are “almost certainly” underestimates, as 480 of the 1,296 public bodies it surveyed did not even record facility time – when employees perform union duties in paid time. This judgement chimes with the government's estimate in July that facility time cost £240m – or 0.14 per cent of the public sector pay bill. The TPA claims public bodies hand out facility time too liberally, compared with the private sector, where just 0.04 per cent of the pay bill is taken up by facility time.