Do trade union bosses really feel their members’ pain? Reading this morning’s news that Derek Simpson, former General Secretary of Unite, received a 'golden goodbye' of over half a million pounds when he retired, it certainly doesn’t sound like it. Hearing that Mr Simpson received such a huge pay-out upon standing down last year was met with "shock and anger" by the current leadership.
The £500,000-plus package consisted of a £361,000 severance payment,£100,000 salary and more than £51,000 in housing benefit and car allowances. Such a massive pay-out undermines Unite’s credibility in the current fiscal debate; as part of their battle against cuts, union leaders claim to be speaking for ordinary workers and the poor, and attack high earners. For members to see their union's boss receiving such a generous package, paid partly through subs, will be a bitter pill to swallow. Our Trade Union Rich List published last month placed Derek Simpson as the highest earner in 2009-10, in receipt of a package totalling £186,626.
Of more concern to taxpayers is the extent to which we are contributing to such a lucrative payoff. Our report last year on taxpayer funding of trade unions revealed they received £85.8 million from public sector organisations in 2009-10 made up of £18.3 million in direct payments and an estimated £67.5 million in paid staff time.
On the pay-out, Emma Boon, Campaign Director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said:
"Trade unions leaders claim to speak for ordinary workers but this whopping golden goodbye puts Derek Simpson in a class with the privileged elite he spent so much time criticising. Simpson looks hypocritical for taking this pay off after condemning high pay elsewhere. Worse still, the union coffers that this money came from are boosted by millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money every year, which helps them to afford generous deals like this to departing leaders."