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Birmingham defends trade union statistics

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Birmingham City Council has defended itself against research showing it has the highest number of staff working on trade union duties among local authorities.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance found the council had 69 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff members working on trade union business in 2012-13.

A Birmingham spokesperson said that, as Europe’s largest council, it “should come as no surprise” that it had more staff involved in union activities that any other local authority.

Overall, the research by the lower taxes campaign revealed at least 2,841 FTE public sector staff, including those from central government, the police and the fire service, worked on trade union duties during 2012-13. This was a fall on the previous year’s figure of 3,041.

It estimated taxpayers funded the union activity to the tune of £108m, comprising £85m paid in staff time and £23m in direct payments.

Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the Taypayers’ Alliance, called for the government to “crack down on this scandalous subsidy”.

The Birmingham spokesperson said: “Under the Employment Protection Act 1975, trade union representatives have a statutory right to reasonable paid time off from employment to carry out trade union duties and to undertake related training.

“In addition, the act gives the statutory right to reasonable unpaid time off when taking part in trade union activities.”

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