Trade Union Bill

Written evidence submitted by Cllr Julian Bell, Leader, Ealing Council (TUB 39)

Thank you for the opportunity to provide written evidence to the public bill committee on the Trade Union Bill, setting out the position of Ealing Council in regards to this proposed legislation.

1. The London Borough of Ealing is a major employer of nearly 3,000 individuals (excluding schools workforce), with a high rate of trade union membership within the workforce, estimated at around 50%. The council has developed a good relationship with the major trade unions representing the workforce. While there are inevitably occasions on which there have been disagreements between the council as employer and the unions, Ealing has generally been able to address these amicably and constructively with the unions. Industrial action has been relatively rare at Ealing Council, with low proportions of union membership engaging in strikes during national disputes. Ealing Council does not feel that, from its perspective as an employer, there is a pressing need for legislative change to the relationship with trade unions.

2. Ealing Council considers that the reasonable provision of facility time for trade union officers is an important part of ensuring the effective operation of the workplace in a collective bargaining environment. While ensuring that facility time remains proportionate and justifiable is a sensible aim, within local government at least this is largely achieved under the current system. The requirement to record and publish details of facility time would be an administrative burden on stretched local authority budgets. Further, any centrally imposed cap on facility time, as the bill enables, would run the risk of being too inflexible to cope effectively with periods when higher levels of facility time are required, such as when a part of the council is undergoing significant change or re-organisation.

3. Ealing Council sees no need or obvious justification for curtailing the deduction of union subscription fees at source. This is straightforward for employees, contributes to a good relationship between the employer and the union and places no significant administrative burden on the council. In common with many employers, the council operates a range of pay-roll deductions for employees, including season ticket and bike loans, which it intends to continue to operate and the ending of check-off would therefore realise few if any savings. Around 48% of Ealing’s employees choose to use the check-off system, demonstrating the value and utility that the council’s staff attach to it.

4. Ealing Council considers it unlikely that the changes to balloting thresholds and other measures relating to industrial action will have any significant impact on the frequency of strikes or their impact on users of Ealing Council’s services. As stated previously, constructive relations between Ealing Council and the trade unions contribute effectively to reducing the frequency of industrial action, so we perceive no benefit to the council or the residents that it serves from these provisions in the bill.

October 2015

Prepared 28th October 2015