A leading trade union says its representatives save Peterborough City Council hundreds of thousands of pounds through paid time-off.
Jo Rust, a regional director for UNISON in Peterborough, said its members are “worth their weight in gold” because they can save hundreds of hours being wasted and prevent the need for industrial action.
She was responding to a report from the TaxPayers’ Alliance campaign group which said Peterborough City Council spent nearly £78,000 in 2015/16 on paid time-off for trade union representatives to carry out union duties.
She said: “One of the really important things our trade union representatives who are getting paid time off do is negotiate with the employer to resolve issues at a low level and avoid the need for industrial action.
“The council and public sector employers are not legally entitled to just bring about change without talking to employees about it.
“Rather than talking to each individual employee, if they go to the staff representatives they can talk with, for example, 10 people and get agreement from the staff body.
“It cuts out the need to talk to thousands of employees.
“We save hundreds of hours of management time in resolving things at a low level.
“Rather than costing £78,000 a year, by allowing trade union representatives time off to undertake trade union duties saves Peterborough City Council over £100,000 a year.”
MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson holds a different view, though.
He tweeted: “Shocking misuse of public money. Why don’t trades unions fund their own activities with own cash?”
A Peterborough City Council spokesman said: “The Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1992 gives trade unions and their members the legal right to take time off with full pay to undertake union duties.
“These figures relate to the 2015/16 financial year and when the 2016/17 figures are published in the coming weeks it will show that there is now only one full-time union representative at the council.
“There is a legal requirement to publish details of all trade union facility time and this can be found at www.peterborough.gov.uk.”