By Claire West

UNISON, the UK’s largest public sector union, has attacked the Taxpayer’s Alliance (TPA) for wasting millions of pounds of public money, by demanding answers from public bodies to spurious questions.

The attack follows their latest line of questioning on union facility time to 1,200 public organisations. The union calculates answering would have cost taxpayers at least a million pounds as well as taking up valuable time and resources — equivalent to more than 100 nursery nurses, teaching assistants or home carers or 50 nurses or social workers.

Far from costing taxpayers money, trade union involvement has a very positive impact on the workplace. Research commissioned by the Department for Business in 2007 suggested that effective and engaged union representation saves the public purse between £170m and £400m a year by improving retention, training take-up, health and safety, and dispute resolution; and as much as £3.6bn a year through general productivity gains. Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, said:

“The Taxpayer’s Alliance is digging up another tired old chestnut. Taxpayers expect their money to be spent providing services, not answering spurious questions from the TPA to prop up their own political interests

“Attacking trade unions who work with employers to create an efficient, more motivated workplace is just plain daft. The TPA is not working for the taxpayer. The reality is they are Conservative funded and are costing taxpayers millions of pounds, and tying up valuable management time, for their own ends.

“There are more than 6m public sector workers and all these staff have the right to be represented. If trade union stewards are going to represent staff properly, they need time away from their usual jobs to do it. What’s more, collective bargaining saves cash. If councils or the NHS had to negotiate individually with all their staff, they would be forced to spend a fortune on consultants or mediators.

“Public services are facing savage cut backs and workers have a right to have their voices heard and rightly expect their union reps to be there to help them when they need them most. “Far from causing industrial strife, paid facility time has contributed to the lowest levels of strikes on record. In short - trade union facility time makes good business sense. The TPA question makes no sense.”