After the local elections in May, I wrote about Unison's countdown to power in Hull. Clearly they thought 'it was them what won it' as the picture below proudly demonstrates. The campaign they fought on behalf of Labour in the city could not have been as effective if it wasn't for the money we paid their Pilgrims - those who are paid to work full-time for their union instead of the job we pay them for.
It's not just Unison who benefit of course. Unite's convenor in the city, Dave Mathieson, is also a Pilgrim. Last year he called for councillors to take a pay cut. He wasn't advocating a pay cut for himself though, and I challenged him to leave his job at the council and work full-time for his union, with them picking up the tab. Unsurprisingly, he didn't take me up on my suggestion.
Mr Mathieson is a very busy man. Not only is he on Unite's executive council, he is also their Chair of Local Government, as well as being a member of the Labour Party. On 30 June he spoke at a rally of striking public sector workers in Hull. He said he was disgusted that his union had not joined the strike, and went on to say:
"Unless the Government backs off, there will be more strikes in August, September and October and I am sure Unite will be there alongside you. This is not just a public sector fight, it's a fight for society."
Even though he wasn't on strike, we still had to pay his salary whilst he encouraged others to do so.
Thanks to a supporter who sent a Freedom of Information request to Hull City Council, I now know how much Mr Mathieson and his colleagues in other unions cost taxpayers in Hull, and this information was not easy to obtain. The council was not willing to let us know the full facts. He earns a salary of £31,754, and when you include other costs of £11,033.28, the total bill to taxpayers of Mr Mathieson's political campaigning is £42,787.28. The figures for Unison are £128,361 and the GMB £39,371. In total those three unions cost Hull taxpayers over £219K, and this is not including teachers who could easily double that figure.
Unions argue taxpayers are not funding them. They say we are merely giving union reps time off to represent their members' interests in industrial disputes. Facilities time. That's all.
Claiming you are now in power, and swanning around the country and making speeches at various rallies cannot be described as time spent looking after your members working for the council. It is blatant political campaigning, and because we pay for it, unions can divert more of their resources into organising rallies such as the TUC rally in London last March. They can spend more time and money organising strikes, and even allow Mr Mathieson time off to be part of a trade union delegation to Venezuela.
I will not only challenge Mr Mathieson again to leave his job at the council, I will challenge the other four full-time Pilgrims too. As I said a year ago, if they do, I will be one of the first to congratulate them.
In other news, a pig was seen flying over the Guildhall.