Union officials save Sunderland hospitals £350,000, figures show

Sunderland Royal Hospital
Sunderland Royal Hospital
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The work of shop stewards saves Sunderland’s hospitals more than £350,000, figures released have shown.

With the Government’s controversial new Trade Union Bill going through Parliament, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has highlighted the paid time off union officials at health trusts are given, and how much they save each trust through their work.

Sarah Dodsworth, regional director of the Royal College of Nursing northern region

Sarah Dodsworth, regional director of the Royal College of Nursing northern region

The Government says the changes would protect the public from disruptive action, but unions have agreed to oppose the legislation “every inch of the way”.

The RCN says that officials help to reduce the rate of staff turnover and the threat of strikes, but argue the new bill would see the time off given to union representatives to carry out their duties limited.

City Hospitals Sunderland saved £354,405 per year by the work of officials, according to the union.

Sarah Dodsworth, regional director of the RCN northern region, said: “Much of the attention on the proposed Trade Union Bill going through Parliament has so far focussed on plans to crack down on strike action.

The bill will not save public sector money. Quite the opposite.

Sarah Dodsworth, regional director of the RCN northern region

“But within this legislation lies a potentially more damaging proposal, which could seriously affect our health service.

“So-called ‘facility time’ – the paid time off given to union representatives to carry out their duties – would be limited and monitored under the proposals as part of a simplistic view that this would save money without considering the benefits.

“This time is used for vital work such as promoting safe working environments, educating staff and helping resolve work-related disputes quickly.

“Research carried out for the Royal College of Nursing shows that trade unions are saving the NHS at least £100million a year across the UK through their work in reducing staff turnover and boosting morale.

Ms Dodsworth added: “Capping the amount of facility time available to union representatives will have a detrimental effect on staff turnover and productivity – something our NHS simply cannot afford.

“The bill will not save public sector money.

“Aside from the expense of high staff turnover, undermining union activity could also hit patient safety.”

No one from City Hospitals Sunderland was available for comment.