17 June 2011 1:46 PM

Bob Crow's hidden subsidy

Here's an amazing letter that Esher Tory MP Dominic Raab has winkled out of Transport for London usuing FOI.

It reveals the astonishing size of the hidden subsidy to the RMT and other trade unions, money coming from our taxes and soaring ticket prices.

Here's the highlights: TfL employs 371 people, whose salaries total £13.9 million, who carry out trade union duties in company time at our expense. Some 31 work full time for the union - that is to say, we pay their salaries but they devote their time to union matters - at a cost of £879,000.

In other words, we are paying higher fares to fatten the very union that is threatening to disrupt Wimbledon and bugger up our journeys to work.

A bit of extra detail that is not in the letter.  Around 270 of the employees (ie, the  majority) belong to Bob Crow's RMT rather than the other three big unions at TfL.

Let's be fair. Much of what trade unions do is excellent and is useful to employers as well as the union.

But not all. I am remembering the drunken, foul-mouthed and intimidating RMT bully-boys I met on a train home from some "conference" or junket. I wonder if they were on full pay at the time.

Here's what Dominic Raab says:

“With damaging strikes looming, the majority of Londoners will be shocked to learn that commuters and taxpayers are paying millions each year to fund union activity on the underground.”

A TfL spokesperson says:

“From our total workforce of around 24,000 staff, 371 staff are part-time and 31 are full-time trade union representatives.  Part-time representatives balance their trade union duties with their role at TfL.   The number of trade union representatives at TfL is in accordance with ACAS guidelines, our agreements with the trades unions and legislation.  Trade union representatives can play an important role in our employee relations particularly at times of organisational change.”

And, finally, here is the letter from TfL to Raab.

Dear Mr Raab
TfL Ref: FOI-0185-1112
Thank you for your letter received by Transport for London (TfL) on 18 May 2011 asking for information relating to the union activities of TfL staff members.
Your request has been considered under the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and TfL’s information access policy. I can confirm that TfL holds the information you require. You asked:
1.    How many staff employed by Transport for London are allowed to devote a proportion of their time at work to trade union activities?
TfL permits release for trade union representatives in accordance with legislation, ACAS guidelines and our agreements with the trade unions. Release for trade union activities is unpaid and therefore employees may take annual leave or unpaid leave to undertake such activities.  It is therefore assumed that you are referring to trade union duties which, subject to certain conditions, allow for paid release.  In accordance with legislation, ACAS guidelines and our agreements, any release must be reasonable and meet the appropriate criteria before release is granted.  Approximately 24,000 staff are employed by TfL and its subsidiaries and 371 of these may spend a proportion of their time on trade union duties.
2.    What is the total salary cost of those staff?
The total salary cost of those staff is £13.9m per annum.
3.    How many staff employed by Transport for London are full-time trade union representatives?
There are 31 members of staff that are full-time trade union representatives.
4.    What is the total salary cost of those staff?
The total salary cost of those staff is £879,398 per annum.
5.    How many of the staff identified by questions (1) and (3) earn more than £25,900/year?
As of 16 June 2011 there are 357 members of staff identified in questions 1 and 3 that earn more than £25,900 per annum.
If this is not the information you are looking for, or if you are unable to access it for some reason, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Please see the attached information sheet for details of your right to appeal as well as information on copyright and what to do if you would like to re-use any of the information we have disclosed.
Yours sincerely
FOI Case Officer
FOI Case Management Team
Corporate Governance Directorate
General Counsel
Transport for London



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This is pathetic, you acknowledge mid way through that trade unions do a lot of excellent work that benefits employees and employer alike, yet the whole article screams with mock disbelief at a long-standing standard arrangement present in any unionised workplace that - blimey - TfL is paying staff who work on union matters.

Also, that's 31 full time staff and a further 341 part time out of a total staff in the region of 28,000, and a total cost of £39m out of a budget in the region of £8bn.

I've no brief for the RMT, but this kind of crap journalism should remain on the so-called TaxPayers Alliance web site, not in the Evening Standard.


The question is why the union shouldn't be paying for its own staff - it's not as though they appear to be short of cash.

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