The most fatuous defence yet of taxpayer-funded full-time union reps

February 14, 2012 3:52 PM

Last week I blogged about the true extent to which council tax payers in Peterborough are funding Rona Hendry and Mark Burn, the  two full-time UNISON activists at the city’s council. Between them, the duo – who are Secretary and Assistant Secretary respectively of the UNISON branch – are costing hard-pressed Peterborough residents in excess of £80,000 a year.

I say “hard-pressed” because – lest we forget – the Tory council there is planning to raise council tax by 2.95% this year and every year for the next five years.

Yesterday the Peterborough Evening Telegraph picked up on the cost to its readers of the union activists, prompting the astounding claims that employing two full-time UNISON reps on the taxpayer was “cost neutral” (Peterborough City Council) or a measure that “saves the council money” (UNISON).

The paper reported the council’s position as being that “if there were no full-time union workers, as many as 30 council union representatives would have to take time off work to attend to their union duties, costing the council money anyway.”

Meanwhile, UNISON’s regional organiser, John Toomey - whilst casually accusing the TPA of ignorance - came out with the line that “this saves the council money as it means workers don’t have to give up time to carry out union duties.”

So let’s get this straight: both the council and UNISON are defending the £80,000 or so spent funding these two individuals, because if it wasn’t spent on them, then the same amount of money would have to be spent funding other people to carry out the same tasks.

Excuse me?! It matters not whether we are talking about two full-timers or twenty people each taking half a day of their working week to carry out union duties, the principle is exactly the same: the taxpayer is being asked to subsidise union activities with money that should be being spent on providing services to local residents.

I repeat: trade unions can have a role to play in workplaces, but it should not be for taxpayers to foot their bills. That is why people pay a subscription to a union.

Sadly both Peterborough City Council and UNISON remain of the mentality that union branches across the public sector should each have an inalienable right to tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money every year. I – and millions of taxpayers – disagree.Last week I blogged about the true extent to which council tax payers in Peterborough are funding Rona Hendry and Mark Burn, the  two full-time UNISON activists at the city’s council. Between them, the duo – who are Secretary and Assistant Secretary respectively of the UNISON branch – are costing hard-pressed Peterborough residents in excess of £80,000 a year.

I say “hard-pressed” because – lest we forget – the Tory council there is planning to raise council tax by 2.95% this year and every year for the next five years.

Yesterday the Peterborough Evening Telegraph picked up on the cost to its readers of the union activists, prompting the astounding claims that employing two full-time UNISON reps on the taxpayer was “cost neutral” (Peterborough City Council) or a measure that “saves the council money” (UNISON).

The paper reported the council’s position as being that “if there were no full-time union workers, as many as 30 council union representatives would have to take time off work to attend to their union duties, costing the council money anyway.”

Meanwhile, UNISON’s regional organiser, John Toomey - whilst casually accusing the TPA of ignorance - came out with the line that “this saves the council money as it means workers don’t have to give up time to carry out union duties.”

So let’s get this straight: both the council and UNISON are defending the £80,000 or so spent funding these two individuals, because if it wasn’t spent on them, then the same amount of money would have to be spent funding other people to carry out the same tasks.

Excuse me?! It matters not whether we are talking about two full-timers or twenty people each taking half a day of their working week to carry out union duties, the principle is exactly the same: the taxpayer is being asked to subsidise union activities with money that should be being spent on providing services to local residents.

I repeat: trade unions can have a role to play in workplaces, but it should not be for taxpayers to foot their bills. That is why people pay a subscription to a union.

Sadly both Peterborough City Council and UNISON remain of the mentality that union branches across the public sector should each have an inalienable right to tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money every year. I – and millions of taxpayers – disagree.

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