Yesterday they reported that Unite had received £17 million of taxpayers' money for training of union officials and claimed that as a result Unite had spare money available to give to the Labour Party. The report deliberately misses the point of the Union Learning Fund which was set up to help and encourage Trade Unions to develop learning and skills in the workplace i.e. to get the Unions to provide workers' education and improve skills and produce a better-skilled workforce. This benefits business as well and relieves the employers of some of the burden . Meanwhile, of course, taxpayers provide millions of pounds of assistance to employers through direct investment grants for start-up, training, tax breaks, Export Credit Guarantee and so forth.
Today, they report that taxpayers are subsidising Trade Union activity by providing 'facility time' in which union reps can go about their work. This is not news; it has been the case since 1975. And the practice is not confined to Government Departments; many private sector organisations do the same. An enlightened employer (if not the Torygraph) will realise that it fosters good industrial relations and, moreover, the employer can use this facility to bring about change more easily. There is a legislative background, and there is advice for employers at the Business Link website, although I don't suppose it occurred to the Torygraph reporter to look into this issue in such depth.