News story

Savings from a decline in full-time trade union representatives

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Reducing the number of full-time trade union representatives in government departments is saving taxpayers approximately £6 million a year.

New figures show that the number of full-time union representatives has fallen to 20, compared with 200 in November 2011. The statistics for January to March 2014 also show:

  • the average monthly percentage of government departments’ paybill spent on trade union activity has fallen by 2 thirds (from 0.26% to 0.07%) since November 2011
  • departments spent 0.09% of their paybill on trade union activity in the year 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014
  • the overall number of trade union representatives has fallen by over 500 since January to March 2013

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said:

Trade unions can play a constructive role in the modern workplace, but before the 2010 general election too many civil servants were working on nothing but union duties and there were no effective controls in place.

We now monitor facility time and limit the time civil servants can spend on trade union work. We’ve reduced full-time representatives by 90% since 2011, saving an estimated £6 million a year as part of our long-term economic plan. There is more for us to do, but the new figures confirm that we are on the right track.

Facility time for trade union duties

Facility time is paid time off during working hours for trade union representatives to carry out trade union duties. In October 2012, after a consultation, the government introduced measures to ensure that facility time arrangements in the civil service reflect modern working practices. These included:

  • more thorough quarterly monitoring and reporting by departments
  • trade union representatives will not spend more than 50% of their paid time on trade union work without ministerial sign-off
  • no full-time trade union representative promoted to a new role will be able to continue as a 100% representative
  • union activities will not attract paid time off
  • a guide figure for monitoring the spend on facility time (0.1% of the paybill for 2013)

The updated statistics are the last before all departments will have implemented the new arrangements.