The subject of Facility Time for representatives of Trades Unions has come back into view this morning, with reports from both the Maily Telegraph and Daily Mail suggesting that, far from its cost reducing, as was the intention of Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude and his cheerleaders at the so-called Trade Union Reform Campaign (TURC), the amount spent within the Civil Service has actually risen.
The offices of Government, seen from Horse Guards Parade
But from TURC the silence thus far has been total: the Twitter feed has seen no action for three months, and its website appears dead. No comment has been made by supporters Aidan Burley MP (of Nazi-themed après ski infamy), former City Councilman Mark Clarke, disgraced former local Government officer Andre Walker, or the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole.
To compensate for this silence, there has been plenty of hot air from Dominic Raab, the Tory MP whose Freedom Of Information request revealed the figures: “With so many facing the disruption of strikes led by militant union leaders, taxpayers will be alarmed to learn their subsidy to the unions has shot up by almost a third in two years” he frothed in suitably dishonest terms.
And, as the man said, there’s more: “Having pledged to cut the millions of pounds of public money siphoned off for union business, it is vital that the Government delivers on its promise”. As Jon Stewart may have said, two things here: facility time is not union business, and payments for it do not subsidise unions. It has nothing to do with industrial action, or any other form of activism.
All that facility time entails is to do with duties within the workplace, for which employers make use of the skills and training of union representatives, who are paid while carrying out those duties. This should not be too difficult for Raab or any of his like-minded colleagues to take on board, and yet ministers like Maude, and his rabidly populist pal Eric Pickles, keep on misinforming about it.
Nor should it be too hard to understand that having representatives working on those duties full-time, rather than having two or more sharing them with other work, is likely to be more cost-effective, as the reps are going to be up to speed on their casework. But the Government has tried to ban full-time reps, and by doing so, has most likely been the sole source of the increased costs revealed today.
None of this should be beyond Dominic Raab or his cheerleaders in the right-leaning part of the Fourth Estate, nor the ministers who have been taken in by TURC and its supporters, who are today so conspicuous by their absence. Because when the Mail says “Crackdown on using public money to fund work by civil servants exposed as failure”, they are on this occasion dead right.
Follow right-wing ideologues in haste, repent at leisure. It was ever thus.