Many councils, including Conservatives ones, that are increasing the Council Tax this year claim hey have "no alternative" that they "have done all they can" to find savings. Yet often the same councils are continuing to use Council Taxpayers money to fund the salaries of trade union officials. Harrow Council, for example, increased spending in this area last year to £230,000.
The Department for Communities and Local Government have gone further then before in issuing new guidance to end this abuse.
The summary is as follows:
1. Councils should save taxpayers’ money by significantly scaling back the cost of trade union facility time.
2. There should be full transparency on the level of facility time given to trade unions.
3. Employees should not be spending all or the majority of their working hours on trade union duties.
4. Time off for trade union activities should be unpaid.
5. The amount of facility time should be reduced and should be limited to a set percentage of an organisation’s pay bill.
6. Councils should adopt private sector levels of facility time.
7. Restrictions should be placed on the use of office facilities for trade union representatives.
8. Political material, or material which incites industrial action, should not be produced or distributed on or using taxpayer-funded facilities.
9. Councils should charge councils for collecting union subscriptions, or end the practice completely.
10. Councillors should declare payments and sponsorship from trade unions and ensure there is no conflict of interest.
Apart from the issue of saving money there is also a concern about the role of trade unions in a free society. Should they operate independently or should they be funded as part of the state? Council managers should talk to the unions. They should be flexible in allowing staff to spend time working for trade unions – provided for those hours they are paid by the unions and not the council. If someone takes a day off a week for union activities they should be paid 80% of their full time salary and it should be up to the union how they spend that one day a week. That is a more satisfactory arrangement that having them woorking for the unions on Council time with managers supposedly monitoring them to stop them using that time to campaign for the Labour Party.
It is not the role of a council to employ trade union officials or to provide trade union office accomodation. Nor should it be the job of the Council to collect union subs via the payroll – even if they unions offer to pay a fee for the service. As an empployer the council should be neutral on the question of whether or not staff choose to join a union. Such neutrality is hardly credible if the council is working for the union.