Union reps could be saving employers as much as £701m a year or £2m a day, according to a report published last week by the TUC.
It calculated that for every £1 spent on union facility time in the public sector, between £3 and £9 was returned in accrued benefits.
The report “Facility Time for Union Reps: Separating fact from fiction”, says that in workplaces where union reps negotiate on behalf of their colleagues, employers benefit from significant cost savings.
These come in the form of more productive - and better trained - workforces. An earlier government report cited in the study showed that workplace-related injuries and illnesses were lower in unionised workplaces, again resulting in savings of millions of pounds for employers.
As fewer cases were taken to Employment Tribunal and as staff tended to stay in post for longer when there were union reps in the workplace, employers spent less on recruitment and retention, with additional savings from lower dismissal rates.
The report also showed that a good deal of the work of union reps takes place in their own time - 16 per cent of reps said that less than a quarter of the time they spent on union work was paid for by their employer.
Written by Gregor Gall, Professor of Industrial Relations at the University of Hertfordshire, the report demonstrated the overall value of union reps to the UK economy, not only helping improve workplace conditions but also enabling private and public sector employers to keep costs down, and so deliver huge savings to the taxpayer.
The report was commissioned following the government’s announcement in November 2011 that it would review the provision of funding for trade union facility time in the public sector.
To read the report, go to the Trade Union Congress website.