A victory in the campaign to stop taxpayer funding of the unions

October 04, 2011 12:22 PM

Last year our ground-breaking research revealed the true extent of taxpayer funding of trade unions. For the first time we calculated the cost of paid time off that union reps working in Whitehall and local government are granted - a staggering £67.5 million. Fast-forward a year, and in an announcement heavily trailed by Guido Fawkes, Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, declared an end to what he called the “ultimate non-job”, taxpayer funded union activists.


In government departments and town halls up and down the country union activists work full time for their union but are paid for with taxpayers’ money. And it's happening elsewhere in the public sector too; the case of Jane Pilgrim was highlighted in the media, she was meant to be working as a hospital nurse looking after the sick. Instead she worked full time for  Unison helping to organise political campaigning. Public awareness of the case led to her going back to doing the job the taxpayers paid for her to do, looking after patients.

If trade union reps want time off to do union work, the unions should pay for that time, not taxpayers. They can afford to pay their leaders six figure sums and they collect membership fees from their own supporters, yet they are allowed to keep milking taxpayers. As they don’t have to pay for this staff time they can use the money they save for political campaigns and donations to political parties. Taxpayers shouldn't have to fund organisations that work directly against the best interests of the taxpayer. It is unacceptable that taxpayers are funding unions while they organise disruptive strikes to defend overly generous pension packages that many taxpayers could often only dream of. Yesterday’s announcement was an important victory for taxpayers and for us and will save millions.

The true cost today of subsidising the unions could be much higher than the £67.5 million in our report. Many departments, councils quangos, NHS trust and other public bodies don’t record the amount of time off they provide for union duties. In his speech Eric Pickles said the cost to the taxpayer each year was £250 million.

We have reported on the efforts of some local authorities and councillors who have taken a lead trying to reduce the subsidy councils give to the unions. In many local authorities the cost of union activists has continued to rise. Only recently an already overwhelmed York city planning department lost one of its planning officers to union duties. Efforts to save money wasted in this manner have faced fierce opposition from councillors who have been funded by the unions, local taxpayers will be relieved to see an end to these cosy arrangements.

The unions are likely to resist these moves with dubious claims that they are assisting the role of the HR department or simply revert to form and employ bully boy tactics. The Government must stand up to opposition from vested interests. It’s time to end taxpayer funded trade unionism.Last year our ground-breaking research revealed the true extent of taxpayer funding of trade unions. For the first time we calculated the cost of paid time off that union reps working in Whitehall and local government are granted - a staggering £67.5 million. Fast-forward a year, and in an announcement heavily trailed by Guido Fawkes, Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, declared an end to what he called the “ultimate non-job”, taxpayer funded union activists.


In government departments and town halls up and down the country union activists work full time for their union but are paid for with taxpayers’ money. And it's happening elsewhere in the public sector too; the case of Jane Pilgrim was highlighted in the media, she was meant to be working as a hospital nurse looking after the sick. Instead she worked full time for  Unison helping to organise political campaigning. Public awareness of the case led to her going back to doing the job the taxpayers paid for her to do, looking after patients.

If trade union reps want time off to do union work, the unions should pay for that time, not taxpayers. They can afford to pay their leaders six figure sums and they collect membership fees from their own supporters, yet they are allowed to keep milking taxpayers. As they don’t have to pay for this staff time they can use the money they save for political campaigns and donations to political parties. Taxpayers shouldn't have to fund organisations that work directly against the best interests of the taxpayer. It is unacceptable that taxpayers are funding unions while they organise disruptive strikes to defend overly generous pension packages that many taxpayers could often only dream of. Yesterday’s announcement was an important victory for taxpayers and for us and will save millions.

The true cost today of subsidising the unions could be much higher than the £67.5 million in our report. Many departments, councils quangos, NHS trust and other public bodies don’t record the amount of time off they provide for union duties. In his speech Eric Pickles said the cost to the taxpayer each year was £250 million.

We have reported on the efforts of some local authorities and councillors who have taken a lead trying to reduce the subsidy councils give to the unions. In many local authorities the cost of union activists has continued to rise. Only recently an already overwhelmed York city planning department lost one of its planning officers to union duties. Efforts to save money wasted in this manner have faced fierce opposition from councillors who have been funded by the unions, local taxpayers will be relieved to see an end to these cosy arrangements.

The unions are likely to resist these moves with dubious claims that they are assisting the role of the HR department or simply revert to form and employ bully boy tactics. The Government must stand up to opposition from vested interests. It’s time to end taxpayer funded trade unionism.

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