A union leader has defended their work after a Government minister said taxpayers should not fund them.
Local government minister Eric Pickles has called on all local authorities to be transparent about what they spend on union activities.
The minister said: “Trade union activities should be paid for by union subscriptions, not bankrolled by the taxpayer.
“Taxpayers have a right to know how much of their money is being spent on subsidising council workers to act as union officials rather than working on frontline services.”
For Kirklees Council union-related activity is 0.38% of the total pay bill.
And Paul Holmes, branch secretary of Unison which has 6,800 members in Kirklees, defended their position.
He said: “Trade union facility time in the public and private sector is pretty much the same.
“Employers want good relations with staff.
“Most local authorities operate the same system, which is roughly one per 1,000 workers.
“And that is no difference in the private sector, so it’s on your rates as much as it is on your supermarket bill.
“Most employers recognise good industrial relations usually save them money.
“We deal with it at the lowest common denominator and while we do advise on strike action, much of our day to day work is dealing with health and safety, sickness and absence and compassionate leave.
“And if you look at the statistics, there is no difference in spend between Labour and Tory councils.”
Mr Holmes gave an example of the importance of unions, highlighting a recent case at West Yorkshire’s Ferrybridge Power Station, where workers walked out after toilet facilities were dirty and without toilet paper, with just eight toilets for 650 workers.
“Things like that take us back 50 years,” Mr Holmes said.
A transparency code has been introduced by Mr Pickles’ department which calls on councils to publish on union spending.
Kirklees says trade union spending is 0.38% – £577,000 – out of total pay bill of £151,210,830.
There are ten unions representing Kirklees staff: AEP; ASCL; Aspect; ATL; GMB; NAHT; NASUWT; NUT; Unison and Unite.
The total number trade union representatives – all stewards regardless of whether they receive time off to undertake their trade union duties – is around 145, of which 22 are full-time equivalent (FTE).
In Kirklees 19 trade union representatives spend at least 50% of their time on trade union duties, which relates to 16.9 FTE.
Calderdale Council has one Unison branch rep on a 30-hour-a-week post, plus 15 employees are union representatives and allowed to spend up to 20 hours of their working week on union work.
Calderdale union spend is £33,264.10, this is less than 0.04% of a total pay bill of £89,795,530.