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USR Paid Facility Time Under Attack As Cameron Vows To Abolish It

A positive role played by safety reps was outlined by Professor Löfstedt in his review of health and safety legislation, published last week. Despite the Professor highlighting that evidence “clearly shows that when employees are actively engaged in health and safety, workplaces have lower accident rates”, he made no recommendations about how the roles of safety reps could be strengthened, or funded.

Of course, once again, the Tory led Con-Dem(ned) government is ignoring the Löfstedt Review and is embarking on the removal of paid time off for Union Safety Reps along with that of all full-time union reps and branch officials.

Responding to a question from a Tory back bencher Laurence Robertson MP, David Cameron made it clear that the attack on employment rights and on health and safety at work protection does not stop there; but that he has a total plan for the complete destruction of all protection and rights from workers.

In turning the clock back to the 18th century and beyond, whilst turning the UK into a ‘United Kingdom of America’ as far as labour relations and workplace safety and employment practice is concerned, Cameron is now embarking on the latest campaign of removing paid facilities from Trade Union reps and Union Safety Reps.

Describing current public funding of activities carried out by Trade Union representatives, including those relating to health and safety, as morally and economically unsustainable, Cameron intends not only to remove paid union representatives from the public sector workplace, but by default also from the private sector.

The Tory review of Employment legislation aims to repeal elements of the law which requires employers to allow trades-union officials a reasonable amount of time off work to carry out their union-related duties. Union reps have legal rights to paid time off to perform their duties in areas such as health and safety, representation, informing and consulting, learning, and collective redundancy.

The charade of an unprompted question coming from a Tory back-bencher can be seen for what it is, coming as it did a week after he wrote a letter of support to Aidan Burley MP, who is spearheading the Trade Union Reform Campaign (TURC) in a bid to reduce funding of trades-union activities at the public expense.

He wrote: “I am pleased that you have decided to establish the TURC, as I strongly believe the current level of public subsidy to the trades unions cannot be sustained, either morally or economically.

“Few would take issue with the unions working on behalf of their members in government departments and other public bodies in their own time, or with union funding.

click to go to website“However, at a time when across the private and public sectors people are having to take very difficult decisions in order to save money, it is difficult to justify some people in the public sector being paid not to do the job they are employed for but, instead, to undertake full-time trades-union activities – much of which should be funded by the unions themselves.”

Aiden Burley MP also has a ‘mindless’ hatred of anything that Trade Unions do and believes that Union Safety Reps are merely a duplication of an employer’s HR Dept and of the HSE!

Asked during a recent debate on the subject in the House of Commons whether he had considered the benefit union reps provide in identifying and preventing health and safety problems in the workplace, Mr Burley replied:

“My direct answer to the honourable gentleman is to ask what he thinks the human resources department, or the Health and Safety Executive are for. Public-sector organisations have those people, so there is total duplication.”

He went on to say:

“Will the Government go one step further? Employment legislation currently requires employers to make available a reasonable amount of time for trades-union representatives to carry out their duties. Will [the Government] change that so that all time taken off for trades-union activities is billed back to the union so that the taxpayer is no longer funding their work?”

Speaking to the BBC after news of the publication of the prime minister’s letter to Mr Burley broke, a spokesperson for the Public and Commercial Services Union said: “It is extraordinary he [Mr Cameron] doesn’t appear to understand how the system works, or understand that representatives – far from being a drain on the taxpayer – benefit the economy to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds a year in terms of resolving disputes, organising staff training, and being involved in health and safety arrangements.”

Many believe that the current Tory government’s attacks on Trade Unions and on workers rights are extreme and fascist in nature.

Chris Ingram, Editor of Unionsafety speaking personally, commented in a social network site recently:

“Hitler's 1st acts: Attack Trade Unions, Elderly, Sick, Disabled, employment rights! Cameron's 1st acts: All of the above!”

He told Unionsafety:

“It is not at all hard to view such policies aimed at the destruction of Trade Union Safety Reps and workplace reps being promoted by the founder of  the TURC Aidan Burley as fascist in nature. Afterall,  the MP was caught by the Dacre press attending a party recently where one of his fellow guests dressed up in an SS uniform and Nazi slogans were chanted. An evening for which Burley paid the bill.”

He concluded:

"However, the reality is that Cameron's fixation on destroying the Unions and removing the ability of workers to continue to receive workplace representation is akin to turning back the clock to the 18th Century, and in a civilised and democratic society cannot be seen as anything other than fascist in nature."

Brendan BarberThe TUC's Brendan Barber said the last government review of the issue in 2007 suggested that union representatives boosted productivity and reduced absenteeism.

He said it added that public sector union reps give 100,000 hours of their own time every week to the UK taxpayer.

"Successive governments have recognised the moral, legal and economic case for supporting workplace reps - this government would be wise to do likewise and to avoid what appear to be ideologically driven announcements designed to appease right-wing backbenchers."

A spokesman for the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) said:

"It is extraordinary he [Cameron] doesn't appear to understand how the system works, or understand that representatives - far from being a drain on the taxpayer - benefit the economy to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds a year in terms of resolving disputes, organising staff training and being involved in health and safety arrangements."

But who are the Trade Union Reform Campaign, and how are they funded?

Well, the group is so non-partisan that it takes as data “research” from the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA). As for funding, it will not say who it is they get funded by.

Chairing TURC is Tory MP Aidan Burley, whose year and a half in the Commons has already drawn adverse comment, whilst the Chief Executive of TURC is Mark Clarke, who was a Tory candidate for Tooting at the last General Election. He is also a director of the Young Briton’s Foundation, a body that is claimed to be a “Conservative Madrasa” which “radicalises” its students.

The costs of Trade Union paid facility time quoted in Parliament by Laurence Robertson MP and provided by the Tax Payer’s Alliance, were examined by Channel 4’s FactCheck service and found to be incorrect and telling only one side of the story:

“The TaxPayers’ Alliance hasn’t laid out the hypothetical benefits of employers funding union activity – just the cost.
But in 2006 BIS’s predecessor, the Department of Trade and Industry, commissioned a report that looked at both sides of the equation.

The then Labour government’s researchers actually put the notional cost to the public sector of paid time off for unionists far higher than the TaxPayer’s Alliance does, at £230m to £243m. Include the private sector and that rises to a total of between £408m and £431m to society.

But they also say the benefits that flow from union representation could be anywhere from £476m to £1.1bn. That’s a reflection of savings made from fewer tribunals, sick days, accidents and dismissals, as well as higher productivity.”

Source: SHP / TUC Risks / TURC / Unison

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