Unions' Pilgrims Spin Unravels, Again

Last the night the BBC website ran what was basically a press release from Mark Serwotka’s PCS union damning Francis Maude’s decision to wield the axe over Pilgrims:

“An official pointed to government figures which, he said, showed the subsidy raises money. For every £1 spent on full-time trade union officials negotiating with employers, resolving grievances and dealing with health and safety issues, the official said, between £3 and £9 was generated for the wider economy.”

It turns out these “government figures” are from 2007, under Gordon’s Labour government. What a surprise they backed taxpayer cash being spent on unions.

Guido hears that the Beeb are getting it in the neck from the Cabinet Office for failing to check this out. Union spin unravels once again…

Victory: Full Time Whitehall Pilgrims Defeated Guido Campaign Success as Frankie Wields the Axe

It is eighteen months since Guido launched his campaign against Pilgrims – taxpayer-funded trade union officials – and tonight victory of sorts can be be declared. During his speech to Tory party conference on Monday, Frankie Maude will announce a series of radical new measures which mean the Whitehall versions of Jane Pilgrim, Hank Roberts and Julie Davies will no longer be able to rip off the taxpayer for the unions’ benefit. Civil servants will now be banned from spending more than half their time on trade union work, with a new maximum of 0.1% of a departmental budget can now be spent on union representation. Paid time off for union activities has also been scrapped meaning we will no longer be picking up the tab for PCS conferences. Any special circumstances will have to be signed off at Ministerial level and details published online. The unions are furious, but there’s not much they can do to fight transparency.

Credit should be given to the sterling work done by the Trade Union Reform Campaign in helping to expose Pilgrims. TURC chairman Aidan Burley tells Guido:

“These welcome reforms are long over-due, and it speaks volumes that a Labour government bankrolled by the Unions never got round to even ensuring that Government Departments kept basic records of time employees spent on working for trade unions.”

While TURC CEO Mark Clarke adds:

“It is great news that Francis Maude is calling time on the wasteful practice of Pilgrims in central government. But this will still leave thousands of Pilgrims working in schools, hospitals and local government. That means nurses not nursing and teachers not teaching. The Maude reforms need to be extended across the whole public sector so we end this abuse once and for all.”

A very pleasing start, that needs to be enforced across the public sector..

The entire story of how Guido and co beat the Pilgrims, ranging from the outing of Jane Pilgrim to parties with Pickles and Frankie Maude’s consultation, can be seen here.

UPDATE: The Taxpayers’ Alliance data was at the heart of this fight, they’ve also responded to the news:

“This move to reduce facility time in Whitehall will save taxpayers millions of pounds, which will be most welcome at a time when hard-pressed families across the UK are having to tighten their belts.However, similar action is also going to be required elsewhere in the public sector. Only then will the days of nurses and council staff working full-time for the union instead of doing the job for which they are paid be consigned to history.”

Trade Union Reform Campaign Consultation Submission

The Trade Union Reform Campaign have outlined the opposition to taxpayer funding of trade unions for the Cabinet Office consultation that ends today.

Although the inquiry had a very narrow remit of looking into publicly funded union activity specifically within Whitehall, the hope is that a trickle down effect will spread from central government across the public sector:

Where it is expected that full-time union activity is set to be banned, TURC are calling for full outlawing of the ridiculous practice:

“In the consultation document it is suggested that the Government end the practice of employing full time Trade Union Representatives. However, this implies that the Government might be content to see people spending 50% of their time on paid union duties.

Recently Rachel Reeves MP (Lab, Leeds West), asked what the practical difference was between one person spending all their time on Union work and two people spending 50% of their time. The cost to the  taxpayer is the same and we risk going round in circles. Abolition represents best value for the taxpayer and avoids the risk of the time they take creeping up again once the issue is out of the headlines. We maintain that abolition removes any ambiguity and polling data suggests 86% of the public share our view.”

Despite all the voodoo economics and spin from the TUC this is a moral issue. Why should the taxpayer pick up the tab to pay for public sector unions to lobby for more taxpayers’ money?

Cabinet Office Hint at Whitehall Pilgrim Movements

Pilgrims are back on the agenda for the last day of the consultation into taxpayer funding for Whitehall civil servants who are actually working on behalf on unions. The TUC mouthpiece put up on the Daily Politics bleated on about how it was all great value for money yet could not answer why, if these Pilgrims are so effective, the rate of public sector strikes is even higher. Digging around it seems that the TUC’s Paul Novak does not really believe what he told viewers today. Speaking in 2011 he said:

“In terms of the added value. Unions do not exist to help Britain’s workplaces to run more smoothly or to make them more productive…. Our core reason for being is to collectively and individually represent our members, their families and their communities  in the workplace and beyond.”

No doubt the TUC’s submission to the consultation won’t let the cat out of the bag quite so spectacularly.

Good signals are coming out of the Cabinet Office. Guido’s source in 70 Whitehall tells him:

“Frankie enjoyed reading Guido this morning. The meeting to discuss the consultation results is in the diary for the start of next week. We look forward to reading the responses but continue to wonder how the uncontrolled spending of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ hard-earned money can possibly be justified.”

The end is nigh…

Five to Midnight for Pilgrims

It’s crunch time for Pilgrims – today is the last day of the consultation into taxpayer funded trade union officials. Employment lawyer Francis Hoar has written on behalf of the TPA attacking public sector employers for breaking industrial relations law by delegating responsibilities to full time trade union officials. It’s pretty damning stuff:

Over to you Frankie…

UPDATE: If you can’t see the document above click here.

Scotland Splashes £14 Million on Pilgrims

FOI data released by the Scottish Tories has revealed that Scotland has spent a staggering £14 million on ‘pilgrims‘ – taxpayer funded trade union officials – in the last five years. Scottish councils are paying the wages of dozens of employees who spend 100% of their time on trade union work, with many more working part-time. Almost £3 million of taxpayers’ money was spent on the £27,000 per year wages of Scottish pilgrims in 2011 alone.

If only Francis Maude were a Scot…

Spain Says Adios to 2,000 Union PilgrimsGovernment to Sack 6,000 More Nationally

The crusade against Pilgrims – taxpayer funded trade union officials – is an international struggle, last year Guido reported moves in Washington to clamp down on this waste of Uncle Sam’s money. This week the Spanish government has announced a further crack down on “Liberados Sindicales ” whom El Mundo describes as “public sector employees who in many cases do little or no work because they are authorised to spend time on trade union matters“. Sounds familiar…

So far in the capital Madrid 2,000 union parasites have been removed from the public sector, nationally the Spanish government wants to remove another 6,000 Liberados / Pilgrims who are paid for by their severely under pressure taxpayers, cutting the number by two-thirds. Spain desperately needs to cut government waste to save itself from bankruptcy… 

Meanwhile back home the Taxpayers’ Alliance has released the annual trade union rich list today, revealing that 36 union bosses earn over £100,000 a year:

Guido welcomes them into the 1%…

TUC Spin Shredded Union Does Not Defend National Organiser's 'Misspeak'

Guido catching out TUC National Organiser Carl Roper and his misleading Pilgrim spinning has certainly upset the union cheerleaders today. Roper has gone AWOL, and as of yet the TUC have refused to comment.* It seems they unwilling to defend him…

Others are not staying so quiet though. The TaxPayers’ Alliance’s Matthew Sinclair confirms that Roper was wrong:

“The TUC undermine their own credibility with this shoddy and dishonest attack on our research. The careful and systematic TaxPayers’ Alliance investigation of trade union subsidies is an invaluable source providing a detailed picture of how unions are receiving subsidies across the public sector at the expense of taxpayers and frontline services. However because of organised attempts by the unions to frustrate that research, and the poor record keeping of many public bodies, we have always made it clear that the overall estimate that research provides will be much lower than the true figure. The new figures in the consultation document support that and suggest the true total could be much higher.”

Chairman of the Trade Union Reform Campaign Aidan Burley emails Guido to say:

“Just four days into the consultation and Carl Roper and his Union cronies are already reverting to misleading the public with false statistics – £36m is just the cost of Whitehall Pilgrims, not across the whole the public sector. TURC estimates the true cost nationally to be well over £100m, especially when free office rents and free collection of union dues are taken into account. Mr Roper should try to explain why his comrades need to immorally divert all this public money to fund their left-wing propaganda – which should be spent on nurses and teachers – rather than mislead the public with dodgy statistics that deliberately try to minimise the extent of their taxpayer-funded largess.”

 It’s going to be a very long consultation at this rate…

*Guido would happily have given the TUC a chance to respond. He is fascinated to see how they might spin this one.

TUC in a Spin Over Threatened Pilgrims

Carl Roper is sanctioned by the TUC to spin for Pilgrims – taxpayer-funded trade union officials. The unions are fully aware of the damage that losing this state subsidy would do to their coffers and their ability to buy influence, so are fighting the Cabinet Office consultation launched last week very hard. So hard that they are just making things up:

Either Carl is an idiot, or he is being deliberately misleading. The Cabinet Office £36m figure is only for taxpayer funded union activity in Whitehall, whereas the TPA figure he mentions is in regard to union activity funded by the state right across the country. Channel Four’s FactCheck – so quickly turned to by the TUC when it agrees with them – believe the TPA figure to be an underestimate. It’s based on FOI data released by councils. Many refused. Carl ran away when Guido picked him up on his dodgy spinning.

No doubt he will happily set the record straight when he sees the error of his ways…

Tax Funded Union Research Backs Tax Funding of Unions

On the day that the consultation into union-leeches is launched, Unison have put out a report about facilities time. In a complete shock the union-funded research has found that unions taking money off  the taxpayer can only be a good thing. Needless to say it’s full of holes, but nice of them to show their hand…

Dave Prentis’ cronies are arguing that union bods in the workplace save money. This is fundamentally dishonest as it only takes into account one side of the picture. For every full-time pilgrim teacher, nurse or back-room pen-pusher that takes time off, the taxpayer has to pick up the tab twice by paying someone else to cover for them. For full-time pilgrims, the state ends up paying double the staffing costs.

This is not factored in to Unison’s hearsay case-study puff piece.

The consultation does not seek to end union officials being given time off, but the real question that needs to be addressed is why they should be paid out of public money when they are not on the job? Union members pay membership fees, the cost of pilgrims should be met from that.

It’s very simple.

UPDATE: It seems it is pilgrim day today. Cabinet Office sources are making all sorts of new information available this afternoon:

  • In one Whitehall department a staggering 2,660 Civil Servants were doing trade union work during their paid hours, including 563 trade union representatives working on Health & Safety, and another 387 on Skills and Learning.
  • A prison service official who worked 100% on trade union work was “promoted twice whilst in their trade union role, up to Grade 7 level” which can confer a salary of up to £61,038.
  • In contrast another 100% trade union representative in a different department earned less than £20,000.
  • In one department TU officials make up 4% of the overall workforce or 1 in 25 people.
  • One department admitted that “no formal allocations [had been] made or central records kept” of the amount of time spent by representatives on some union activity, while another confessed that “no central monitoring takes place”.
  • Only one department reported that they asked each representative “to apply to, and get the sign off from, the line manager in advance for the time they require” to take off – insisting that “reasonable notice (usually min 10 days)” must be given.
  • Several departments reported that they held “no central record” of the numbers of representatives working on Health & Safety or Skills & Learning.

Overall there are a staggering 10,000 civil servants doing trade union work during paid hours, that’s 1 in 40 of the total civil service workforce. Unbelievable… 

UPDATE II:

Read: Pilgrim Consultation Document

“We are seeking to review and rebalance the amount of paid time off provided to undertake trade union duties, and to review the level, frequency and cost of providing paid time off for trade union activities. This consultation covers all types of trade union representatives but does not seek to change the statutory basis for these duties and activities. We also wish to review the use of  facilities by trade union representatives e.g. telephones, photocopying and use of office  accommodation, to ensure it is appropriate and represents value for money for the taxpayer.”

Rebalance? Repayment of the £36m unions siphoned from Whitehall budgets this year would be more appropriate. Either way it looks like the full time Pilgrims are doomed…

+ + + Cabinet Office Pilgrim Consultation Launches Now + + +

Mad Frankie Maude’s long-awaited consultation into the absurd degree in which the taxpayer funds union agitators in Whitehall is set to go live any minute. Developing…

UPDATE: For background on Guido’s 18-month campaign to get to this stage, see  a round up here.

UPDATE II: The taxpayer funded union’s lobbyists are preparing a barrage of submissions.

Whitehall Pilgrims Exposed £36 Million For Civil Service Union Time

Pilgrims are back on the agenda. Guido understands that the long awaited consultation into taxpayer-funded trade union officials will be announced next week. For the first time a clear picture of the extent to which unions fleece the taxpayer in Whitehall alone has been revealed.

248 civil servants have been identified who spend 100% of their paid time on union business. There are at least 6,800 civil servants who do part-time trade union work across the civil service.

And the grand total? The annual cost to the taxpayer is £36,000,000. It has been pointed out that this is the equivalent of the salary of over 900 nurses or the cost of over 10,000 primary school places.

A Whitehall source said:

“Francis Maude demanded that departments collect proper, accurate information on the numbers and costs of taxpayer-funded trade union pilgrims. This information was never available before and, unsurprisingly, initial estimates understated the case. No doubt Labour didn’t want to antagonise their union paymasters by monitoring union activity properly. It’s simply wrong that taxpayers are paying Civil Servants to spend years doing nothing but union activity instead of the jobs they are supposed to do.”

Not for long…

Pilgrim Progress

Pilgrim Progress – Pickles Forces Cash Transparency

From the first of next month it will be a legal requirement for councillors to declare payments from unions. If they lie it will be a criminal offence. Guido has a feeling that you’ll be surprised at the extent to which unions secretly bankroll Labour, even at a local level.

Department of Local Government sources stress the importance of this move to the ongoing fight against Pilgrims – taxpayer-funded trade union officials, who regular readers will remember Guido campaigning against. Given that councils vote on how many of these money wasting staff members there can be, it’s going to be interesting to see who is pulling the strings.

Other developments in the fight include:

“· Francis Maude will shortly be publishing a policy paper proposing to scale back so-called ‘facility time’ in the Civil Service back to private sector levels – rather than gold-plating legal requirements.
· The Department for Communities and Local Government will follow through in due course with guidance to councils, giving them legal assurance and practical help on how they can review and cut back both facility time and the provision of subsidies like free office facilities.
· In local government, these matters should be debated openly in Full Council – with councillors declaring any prejudicial interests, such as receiving payments in kind from unions at election time.”

The Cabinet Office have saying these moves are imminent for months, but Guido gets the impression gears are turning this morning…

Tories to Attack Pilgrims in Party Broadcast

Guido hears that tonight’s local election Tory Party Election Broadcast will have a direct pop at Pilgrims: specifically Ed Miliband’s council who pay some £186,877 for seven full-time taxpayer-funded trade union officials. Guido knows that Frankie Maude has had a tough couple of weeks, but he’d like to gently remind him about that promised consultation that has yet to materialise…

Washington Post Attacks Pilgrims

 

Back in June Guido reported that the campaign to end taxpayer funding of trade union officials had gone global. Phil Gingrey, a Republican congressman from Georgia, was attempting to restrict the activity of Pilgrims, or what they call “release time”. Today’s Washington Post has waded into the growing disquiet at “Union business, on the taxpayers’ dime“:

“…if union activities were paid for by union dues rather than tax dollars, there would be less dues money available for campaign contributions to the grateful politicians who negotiate release-time benefits for the contributing unions.

Release-time provisions have existed for 40 years. What is new is a willingness to call attention to them and contest them, a willingness born of the pressure the recession has put on municipal budgets. Just as a recession has the benefit of making private enterprises more conscious of efficiencies, it makes governments less cavalier about expenditures.”

So the barriers to change are the same on both sides of the pond: greedy politicos.

Pilgrim Consultation Due to Start Imminently Nick Hurd Confirms Wider Scope

Nick Hurd has confirmed that the government consultation into “Pilgrims” is “about to start imminently”. He told a feisty Westminster Hall debate on taxpayer funding of trade unions:

“We will seek to review and rebalance the amount time off for Trade Uion duties… the current level is significantly more that the private sector… The consultation I’ve just described is focussed on the civil service, where my responsibilities as a Minster lie. However other colleagues who have responsibility for these matters in the wider public sector have been asked by the PM to review the position in their sectors.”

A good starting point is why should the taxpayer fund those that want to destroy the Olympics, costing the taxpayer even more money…

Alison the Bank of England Pilgrim

Citing the Data Protection Act, the Bank of England have refused to tell Guido how much they pay Alison, their full-time trade union official. She’s seconded to Unite the Union, though seems to do nothing that an HR title couldn’t cover.

Why they feel the need for a union recruiter in the central bank beggars belief. 

The bank’s website seems very proud of this arrangement. Many would argue she’s a strange choice for their profile of typical employees. Before she became a Pilgrim, Alison tried her hand at being a bank regulator. That went well…

UPDATE: Guido forgot to add that the Bank pay for her to have an assistant as well.

The Real Cost of Peterborough Pilgrims

The unions have often moaned that the investigations into their facility time are unfair. If anything figures put out by the Taxpayers’ Alliance were very conservative. Take Rona Hendry (£43,600 per annum) and Mark Burn (£29,700 per annum) for example, two Pilgrims who seems to spend their time creating ‘social communities’ online for Peterborough Council.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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