The Evening Standard has published an article laying into Camden UNISON. The article contains a number of inaccuracies, and looks very much like a politically motivated attempt by a right-wing Tory MP (Priti Patel) and a right-wing newspaper (the Evening Standard) to attack trade union facility time.
Workers have a right to be represented by a trade union and their union representatives have a right to reasonable time off from work for union duties, so where there is a recognised trade union employers will always have to bear some of the cost.
The TUC has published a fact sheet highlighting the benefits of trade union facility time and challenging the attacks that are being made on it. For example, it points out that every £1 spent on union facilities generates £6-9 of savings by, among other things, increasing retention of staff and reducing numbers of employment tribunals.
Why are we seeing these attacks in the press now? Right-wing free marketers don’t like trade unions because unions advocate the rights of workers. They would prefer that employers could do whatever they liked, and that workers were not represented by a union that aimed to stand up for them and defend their terms and conditions.
Furthermore, at this time of cuts, many trade unionists have been working with the local community to resist the attacks on our public services. Those who are pushing the austerity agenda wish to weaken unions so that they are not in a position to fight against them.
Last week the same newspaper repeatedly printed articles attacking the paid facility time for the NUT association secretary in our neighbouring borough of Haringey. This decision almost certainly reflects the fact the NUT has been actively campaigning against local primary schools being forced into Academy status at the insistence of Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education.
The paper has also given editorial support recently to the so-called Trade Union Reform Campaign which attacks union facility time. Its supporters include the disgraced former Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, and is chaired by Aidan Burley MP, perhaps best known for attending and bankrolling a stag night, which featured guests including his good friend the groom dressed in Nazi uniforms.