The civil service paid more than £8.6m last year for trade union officials, with the payments for “facility time” at HM Revenue and Customs exceeding £2.2m.
There were more than 5,300 trade union representatives working across civil service organisations in the year to March 2018 – over 4,000 full-time equivalents – according to data released by the Cabinet Office.
While HMRC had the biggest pay bill for union officials, at almost a quarter of the total civil service figure, the Department for Work and Pensions had the largest number of representatives – 1,544 full-time equivalents (1,641 reps in total).
Whitehall’s operational departments had the largest numbers of trade union officials on their books – DWP was followed by HMRC, which had 916 full-time equivalents (1,529 reps in total), then the Home Office with 317 full-timers (334 in total) and the Ministry of Justice with 200 (636 in total).
The Department for Exiting the European Union and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport had just one union rep on their books, while the Department for International Development and HM Treasury had two.
After HMRC the next biggest spender on facility time – where trade union staff take agreed time off to act on behalf of their members – was the MoJ, at just over £2m. The pay bill for union officials at DWP was just under £0.8m, and at the Home Office just under £0.7m.
Across the public sector, the total bill for facility time was around £200m in 2017-18, with more than 16,000 full-time equivalent trade unionists in post across 1,200 public bodies, including police forces, NHS trusts and local authorities.
All public bodies with more than 49 full-time employees are now required to submit this data to the Cabinet Office, on an annual basis.
Cabinet Officer minister Oliver Dowden said: “Proper controls will save taxpayers’ money and allow more resources to be spent on frontline services across the police, hospitals and councils. We have already delivered these reforms in the civil service, whilst ensuring fair pay in the workplace.
“By opening up the books, we are now demonstrating the scope for the wider public sector to follow this example.