The Taxpayers Alliance has published research comparing the amount of taxpayer's money spent funding trade union officials for 2010/11 and 2011/12. The total cost is steady at £113 million. In one sense the situation has become even more outrageous as the proportion of state funded union officials in the public sector has risen:
While total public sector employment fell by 6.5 per cent from 2011 Q2 to 2012 Q2,1the number of full-time equivalent staff working on union duties in bodies which provided data in both years declined from 3,065 to 2,977. That is a fall of less than three per cent which suggests the proportion of public sector staff working for trade unions may be rising.
For the notional public sector employers of these 3,041 union reps there is responsibility without power. They pay the wages but seldom make any check on how the union officials spend their time – the union officials are answerable to their unions rather than their employers. We can all guess what the priority is during an election campaign.
Birmingham City Council has the equivalent of 70 full time union officials with their salaries paid by the Council Taxpayer. That was an increase from 62 on the previous year and is the most of any council in the country. Labour took control of the city in May. Frankly is it any surprise when they have such an advantage given to them in terms of campaigning resources compared to the Conservatives who rely on volunteers?
Nottingham City Council is on 27.3 full time equivalent union funded posts – a modest increase from 26 in 2010/11.
Leicester City Council had a sharp rise from nine in 2010/11 to 19 in 2011/12. Cuts, what cuts?
In London there is great variation. Tower Hamlets is on 13.3. Wandsworth has scarcely a tenth of that level with 1.4 full time equivalents.
In Greater Manchester, while Conservative Trafford funds two posts, Labour Wigan funds nine.
This is not to excuse Wandsworth or Trafford or any other council including my own – they should be asking themselves how they can justify spending any money in this way. Unpaid time off for union activities is another matter.
I would hope and expect that when the Taxpayers Alliance publish their report for next year we will see a sharp reduction. This is not just due to the new guidelines but also the teachers unions should face a squeeze due to schools converting to academy status.
Speaking of the teaching unions, those who insist that the Overseas Aid budget is effectively spent on reducing poverty might like to justify, if they can, the following note from DfID:
Payments to the NUT of £131,988 in 2010-11 and £100,286 in 2011-12 were for: "Working with 360 teachers in the UK to enhance their ability to teach about global interdependence and the consequences of poverty, so that they become agents of change."