By Duncan Simpson, research director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance
First, the schools shut up shop. Then came the exams fiasco. The last thing worried parents needed this summer was uncertainty about term times. But little did that matter to the senior shop stewards in the teaching unions, determined to keep classrooms closed.
Despite the admirable efforts of many educators to keep calm and carry on, the luminaries of the National Education Union (NEU) were having none of it. They were busy firing off dictats telling school staff not to ‘engage’ with plans for reopenings, and now threaten strike action over supposedly insufficient safety measures.
This coronavirus crisis has reminded us that union bosses can always be counted on to look after for number one.
As this year’s TaxPayers’ Alliance Public Sector Trade Union Rich List reveals, it’s par for the course. We revealed that union robber barons continue to enjoy bumper pay packets, picked from the pockets of their members and taxpayers. Last year, the 29 labour leaders took home an average of £153,935, with six senior staff at the education unions (including the NEU) sharing a stupendous £1,296,869 between them. Top of the class as the highest-paid public sector trade union boss was Sally Hunt, former General Secretary of the University and College Union, who received £534,805 in total remuneration, including £400,000 for “post employment payments”.
Of course, this was in spite of her previously criticising university leaders for salaries of a similar size. The self-serving sanctimony of these socialist shop stewards grows worse every year. At last week’s TUC Congress, General Secretary, Frances O’Grady pontificated about how the virus has “exposed the injustice of inequality”. She herself received £166,461 in total remuneration, with her gross salary alone putting her firmly in the top three per cent of earners across the UK. Truly, there is no limit to the high-handed hypocrisy of Britain’s red barons.
How times have changed. When the Second World War broke out, trade unions cooperated closely with the government. In 1940, trade union leader Ernest Bevin became Minister of Labour and his rallying cry of “we must have exports” called on people to go to work to support the war effort. Today, it is organised labour trying to keep the country closed.
Taxpayers have had enough lectures from loaded union barons. In 2018-19, staff across the public sector received £81.2 million for facility time - paid time off to carry out union duties. Direct grants are also given by government departments, police forces, NHS trusts and councils to the unions.
Yet bosses remain staunchly focussed on their own self-interest, putting their ideological crusades before the concerns of their members or our collective fight against covid. It’s about time they put their money where their mouth is, cut back their whacking great wages and overcame their institutional intransigence. Until then, we’ll take no lessons from Frances O’Grady and the NEU.