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Wednesday 31 October 2012

TPA – More Facility Time Dishonesty

Today has brought the news of “New Research” from the dubiously talented array of non-job holders at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), although as any fule kno the TPA does not engage in anything that can credibly be called research. This is yet another Freedom of Information (FoI) fishing expedition, on the subject of Trade Union facility time, selectively spun to suit the TPA narrative.

More bore from the second floor

We can today reveal that trade unions received at least £113 million in subsidies from taxpayers in 2011-12” claims the report. So where does all of that come from? Well, £92 million is from facility time, so that’s the first act of blatant dishonesty, as these payments go to workplace representatives who are not union employees. There is no payment to unions here, nor any subsidy.

Of the remaining £20 million, £15.5 million is to the Union Learning Fund, which has been set up to enable workers to develop skills and thereby benefit their workplace, and is in any case ring fenced. There is not, and will not be, any benefit/cost analysis of this kind of intervention from the TPA, as their sole reason for including the payments is to drive their anti-union narrative.

So what’s left - £4.5 million? That appears to be accounted for by payments to the Skills Funding Agency, part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). And was it worth around three quarters of a million notes (1,296 FoI requests at an average of £600 a time) to “expose” this? Well, the TPA clearly believes it is, as one look at the rhetoric shows.

This part of the attack has been handled personally by chief non-job holder Matthew Sinclair, who asserts “It is simply wrong that taxpayers are seeing their money used to pay thousands of trade union activists who organise strikes”. No taxpayers’ money is used to pay trade union activists. No organisation of strikes is involved. So no taxpayer is seeing anything of the sort.

But he’s not finished: “Tens of millions of pounds are being wasted and supporting aggressive political campaigns”. Leaving aside the shoddy use of grammar, no waste has been demonstrated, and no political campaign, no matter what level of aggression is involved, is being funded. There is a short and signally pejorative word beginning with L that describes what Sinclair the shameless is doing here.

And when Sinclair refers to “this scandalous subsidy”, he is making a false assumption: facility time payments do not contribute to trade unions’ war chests, and nor do Union Learning Fund payments or those from the Skills Funding Agency. The TPA “report”, far from being “research”, is a slanted and ideologically motivated hatchet job which indulges in routine dishonesty to make a political point.

That would be a political point, as opposed to a factual one. No change there, then.

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