Labour rails against plan to cut pay for union work

Unions are already furious about a bill that they believe goes further in diminishing their rights and powers

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The Independent Online

Business ministers will again clash with Labour over the Trade Union Bill tomorrow, when peers debate Government plans to crack down on paid time off for shop stewards and representatives to undertake union work. 

Unions are already furious about a bill that they believe goes further in diminishing their rights and powers than even the reforms imposed on them by Margaret Thatcher. 

Flashpoints so far have included rows over changes to how unions affiliate to political parties, which will drain Labour’s funding, and raising the threshold of workers who must vote in order for industrial action to be legally permitted. 

The attack on what is known as “facility time” has received relatively little attention, but this will change tomorrow. Restrictions on how long officials can still be paid for training or representing  members, which could include redundancy talks and negotiating pay deals with management,  will be heavily criticised by Labour peers. 


In a blog to be published tomorrow, Baroness Dianne Hayter, a shadow Cabinet Office minister, will describe the threat to introduce a cap on money that local authorities can spend on facility time as “another pernicious little provision”. 

“Such work is the backbone of trade unionism, with reps undertaking more input than full time union officials,” she says. “As all good managers know, it contributes to better communications in the workplace. And at times of restructuring, redundancy, job evaluation, regrading and relocation, plays a key role in smoothing transitional arrangements…

“Britain has a good industrial relations record. Why on earth would the Conservatives want to undermine this? Other than to put another cap on what they perceive, in their narrow binary view of politics and life, to be a potential voice of opposition.” 

Last week, Tim Roache, the incoming general secretary at the GMB general workers union, told The Independent that he did not fear the Government’s attempts to make it harder to strike by imposing a 50 per cent threshold for members turning out to vote on industrial action for it to be legal. He added that enough  of his members will vote if they feel strongly another about industrial action.

However, he does want the bill to include a provision to allow these votes to be made electronically rather than by post so that workers will find it easier to make their preferences known. He said: “This needs to be 21st century, not 19th century.”