Over the past few months, I’ve observed the attack by the dubiously talented assortment of non-job holders at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) and their new pals at the hilariously dishonest and accident-prone Trade Union Reform Campaign (TURC) against Trade Union representatives’ facility time. This is clearly so important to the TPA that they have now assigned an unpaid intern to it.
A comfortable place to do your interning
Sadly, Yazdan Chowdhury is not doing any better than his generously remunerated permanently employed colleagues when it comes to disguising the blatant misinformation and sleight of hand for which the TPA has acquired a particular degree of infamy. Indeed, his post, “How taxpayers’ money funds trade union campaigns”, signposts the main whopper rather deliberately.
Chowdhury ensures he stays the right side of the defamation line – but only just – as he pulls a particularly fast one: “new evidence appears which suggests that the problem has reached a whole new level, with taxpayer-subsidised trade union branches openly campaigning against government policy in the very departments in which their members are supposed to be working”.
Trade Union branches are not in receipt of “taxpayer subsidy”. Let’s briefly recap here: facility time is paid time off, for employees of organisations in both public and private sectors, to perform a tightly-defined set of duties on behalf of the Trade Union of which they are a member, those duties having been set out in legislation passed in 1992 under a Conservative Government.
Workplace Trade Union representatives are not Union officials. No money is paid to any Trade Union branch in respect of facility time payments. Any representative using that time, or any facility that goes with it – such as IT equipment – for campaigning purposes is in breach of facility time rules, and if anyone has evidence that this is going on, they should report it and it will be stopped.
So when Chowdhury tells that “trade union branches ... take taxpayers’ money” he is being blatantly dishonest. It isn’t the only instance: he also asserts that the number of workplace representatives at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) means that one Trade Union’s branches “will be among the beneficiaries”. This is truly desperate stuff.
And here a parallel can be drawn: as the TPA’s campaign to demonise the HS2 project failed to make headway, the scare stories became ever more preposterous, the re-working of the costs and benefits so blatant that some former supporters began to distance themselves from the group. The wider Trade Union movement, then, should not be too concerned about this latest froth from the TPA.
Because they are protesting too much, and nobody who matters is listening.