MPs back “unsung heroes of the Prime Minister’s big society”

MPs back “unsung heroes of the Prime Minister’s big society”

Westminster MPs have defeated an attempt to introduce a bill on trade union facility time by Conservative MP, Jesse Norman.

Norman put forward a ten-minute rule motion “to bring in a Bill to provide that pay for hours worked on behalf of trade unions by trade union officials during hours when they are paid by an employer should be refunded to the employer by the trade union; and for connected purposes.”

MPs disagreed and rejected the motion by 211 votes to 132 – a majority of 79.

Norman said that information gleaned from 1,300 freedom of information requests found that trade unions received £113m from public sector organisations in 2010-11.

But the most recent study on this showed that reps across the public and private sector give their employers and fellow employees about £115m of their own time every year (at 2007 prices) – more than the £113m that the Taxpayers’ Alliance claims unions receive in public support.

Norman did not mention that with each FOI request costing between £500 and £600 in staff time, the TPA's requests on this cost an estimated £715,000 of taxpayers’ money.

John Healey, Labour MP for Wentworth and Dearne, said Norman had made “a cheap-shot speech based on ignorance, ideology and inaccurate briefings from the Taxpayers' Alliance.”

He pointed out that a government survey showed that reps in the public sector contribute up to 100,000 unpaid hours each week to carry out their duties.

“Our union reps are the unsung heroes of the long, proud British tradition of volunteering. They are the workplace wing of the Prime Minister’s big society,” he added.

Healey also said that employers are not calling for this attack – it does not even feature on the CBI’s 11-point checklist of curbs it wants to see on trade unions.

“Many of our biggest and best British companies work with trade unions and recognise them – Rolls-Royce, Tesco, Virgin Media, Odeon cinemas, the HSBC bank and Jaguar Land Rover. Those names are known worldwide and those companies know the benefit of working with trade unions and know the benefit of trade union representation.

“If we accept that employers as well as employees benefit from union representation, it is entirely right to expect employers to make a contribution towards the cost,” he concluded.

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