Pickles on Pilgrims

It’s down to Pickles and Maude to announce the end of trade union funded public sector officials – or as Guido christened them – Pilgrims. As revealed yesterday, after months of campaigning on the issue, Pickles will this afternoon say:

But in the game of Town Hall Top Trumps, there’s a non-job which beats even the Civic Sex Snooper.

Taxpayer-funded, full-time, trade union officials.

They cost the public sector – that’s taxpayers to me and you – £250 million a year. This is money taken away from frontline services. Guess what… You won’t find Labour criticising them. Silence from Ed Miliband. His Labour councillors voted to close libraries, but keep bankrolling union officials on the rates. And surprise, surprise. Not even a dicky bird from Labour’s local government spokesperson, Jack Dromey, No wonder. Because he knows the unions are still bankrolling Labour. In my book, that’s not All Right Jack. If unions want to raise money for Labour – do it in your own time, not on the rates. We’re going to call time on this last closed shop.

Maude will flesh out the nitty gritty. Interesting to note Caroline Flint has become irrelevent and it’s her deputy, Mr Harman, who is taking the flack.

Having so often set the news agenda, Guido could get used to setting the policy agenda too…

Exclusive: Defunding Unions – Osborne To End "Pilgrims"

According to an internal CCHQ briefing, produced ahead of Frankie Maude’s speech, the government will announce a “consultation” aimed at bringing an end to full-time taxpayer-funded public-sector union officials. This is a culmination of a campaign started on this blog in April, which was taken up by backbench MP Aidan Burley with David Cameron at PMQs in May. It was then the subject of an EDM proposed by David Morris MP and highlighted at the Rally Against the Debt where speakers (pictured) spoke out against “Pilgrims”.  June saw public opinion swing behind the issue in the polls after the Taxpayers’ Alliance identified £67 million pounds wasted subsidising union activists. Eric Pickles and Frankie Maude soon got behind the issue. Last month saw the first breakthrough when the original “Pilgrim”, the full-time on-the-taxpayer Unison agitator Jane Pilgrim, was returned to front line nursing duties. She is the first of many union activists who will be put back to front line work.

Leaked CCHQ internal briefing:

The initial £30 million saving is more significant than it sounds, it strikes at the heart of the infrastructure of funding for union militancy, directly defunding the left and undermining their ability to muster state-subsidised agitators. The CCHQ briefing document ahead of the announcement refers to a term coined by this blog – “Pilgrims” – as well as crediting the research work of the Taxpayers’ Alliance. We’re celebrating this breakthrough as a huge policy victory, there is nothing we like more than bashing union militants…

UPDATE: Full story background to the anti-Pilgrims campaign here.

Original "Pilgrim" Forced Back To Front Line Services Work

St George’s Hospital in Tooting is under new management and it seems that they have begun to clear out the rot. Jane Pilgrim, the “nurse” who was paid a full-time salary not to nurse, but to work full-time campaigning against the government, has been taken off her full-time duties for Unison and returned to the job we pay her to do – looking after patients:

From: Jane Pilgrim
Sent: 15 September 2011 ██:██
To: ███████████████████████
Subject: Out of Office AutoReply: on-call

I will not see Emails today until 4PM AS I am clinical.

Urgent calls
07██████████
UNISON 1███

Have a Good Day

Thanks

Jane

Fittingly this small but not insignificant victory comes during the week of TUC conference. Guido hears our old friend Jane was none to happy about the move. Jane can go back to work safe in the knowledge her precedent has possibly ruined her movement’s subsidised fun and games at taxpayers’ expense. Her case has directly lead to the issue of taxpayer funded union officials, or “Pilgrims” as they have come to be known, shooting up the agenda. Guido hears from the more switched on ministers that the days of unproductive Pilgrims are numbered. The government is reviewing the £86 million loophole that pays for the union’s organisational infrastructure, allowing them to save the money raised by member subscriptions for more important things. Like keeping the Labour Party solvent…

You can read the whole saga here. We’re celebrating that this blog has helped to increase public sector productivity…

Pilgrim's Progress II

Remember our old friend Jane Pilgrim? The union staffer at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, who is paid a full time nurses salary not to nurse? She instead spends her days smearing Lansley. Well Guido hears that she was allowed to carry on as if nothing had happened, despite being busted running a private consultancy firm on the side, that used pictures of the hospital’s management, without their consent, as endorsements. Instead of being sacked, she was promoted by hospital managers to “management lead for trade unions.” Whatever that means. 

While Pilgrim’s actions triggered outrage, with the issue of taxpayer funded union officials reaching Prime Minister Questions, and the government signalling a review into the practice, the original sinner and inspiration for the whole campaign has thus far got off very lightly. However Guido hears the net might be closing in on our old friend.

Geoff Thorne was a hospital porter and Secretary of the St George’s Hospital Unison branch. Like Jane Pilgrim he’s militant and ganged up with her to threaten a nurses strike at St George’s – as if it wasn’t enough that she wasn’t doing any actual nursing. Geoff had a cameo role in the Pilgrim saga when the Mail on Sunday outed him as Pilgrim’s lover and it emerged that he colluded in the lies spread about “meeting” Andrew Lansley, despite the fact that he boycotted the event with Pilgrim.

Well this morning Geoff Thorne was fired. Guido understands that this was for the leaking of confidential information, but is awaiting the official line. Geoff is not the only recent exit from St George’s Hospital in recent weeks. Within a few weeks of Guido breaking the Pilgrim mess back in May, the management at St George’s were cleared out. Normally, these sort of changes would happen as part of a bigger series of moves and restructuring. Not in this case – hospital sources are adamant that St George’s alone was singled out for the cleansing.The Chief Executive “resigned” and cleared his desk within 24 hours – without a replacement, two years early. Within days the Trust Chairman announced the end of her term.  Even though she was eligible for another two years. She used to have Labour Party posters up in her office…

New management has been brought in, and are apparently on a bit of a rampage. Jane isn’t off the hook yet…

Labour's £51,000 Pilgrim

Yesterday’s News of the World hailed, with paywall smashing fanfare, a huge clamp down on taxpayer funding of trade union officials. Music to Guido’s ears after his long campaign against such pilgrims.

Mad Frankie Maude is on the rampage with his axe:

“Maude is ready to tear up workers’ rights laws that force struggling families to pay the wages of full-time union officials in public services. A senior Whitehall source said: “We’re looking closely at the huge levels of support unions receive. This is high on our agenda.”

The momentum is building. There is no justification for the taxpayer paying a lobbying organisation to fight for an unsustainable mess in the interests of a vocal minority group. We don’t pay the arms dealers and the tobacco lobbyists’ staffing bills…

Take this classic example flagged up by the Black Country’s Express and Star:

“Judy Foster is employed as an administration officer by the fire service. But for the past seven years the Labour councillor has been devoting all her working time to Unison, representing 280 fire workers. The fire service has now insisted that Councillor Foster spends half her working time on fire service duties and half with the union. But Unison has appealed against the offer and says her union work should be full time and funded entirely by the taxpayer.”

Why? On what grounds?

“Councillor Foster, who was elected in 1998, already picks up £9,300 in allowances from Dudley Council along with £14,475 as vice chairman of the West Midlands Police Authority. With her £28,000 job, it brings her combined taxpayer-funded salary and allowances to more than £51,000.”

Guido reckons he’s found an “efficiency saving” right there.

Pickles Bans Serwotka From DCLG

Guido couldn’t quite believe it when he saw one of the Sundays had been briefed that the government is preparing a ban on the practice of paying union officials out of the taxpayer purse. However when he saw that Mad Frankie Maude had floated the idea in all of the broadsheets, he was more than a little chuffed. Guido has been campaigning on this issue for months, starting with the big-mouth of the delectable Nurse Pilgrim in Tooting, and taking the campaign all the way to the Prime Minister. It looks like it’s getting some real traction. The public don’t like it, and it seems someone is listening.

As the first wave of strikes look set to begin on Thursday, Guido hears that PCS boss Mark Serwotka (£86,244 + £25,441 pension + 1,076 housing allowance pa,) wanted to rally his troops in the Department of Communities and Local Government. Whitehall sources say his request to come in and encourage members to walk out on Thursday was flatly rejected by Pickles. Apparently the slap hasn’t gone down well…

YouGov: 51% Want Ban On Taxpayer Funded Union Staff

A Taxpayers’ Alliance and YouGov poll shows more than half the country would like to see an end to the controversial practice of public sector union officials being paid while they do union activity instead of working. As the unions don’t have to pay their staff and national organisers, they can spend the money raised through subs on political activity, like funding the Labour Party.

The TPA reckon that at least £67 million is being diverted from frontline services into the pockets of union officials. As Guido has been showing you over the last few months, these officials are up to no good. If the unions want staff they should pay for them out of union subs. Guido isn’t surprised the public are rejecting this absurd loophole.

UPDATE: Given this insight into the public mood, perhaps the Tories own taxpayer funded operation, the Parliamentary Resources Unit, might like to retract their amber warning to MPs over David Morris’ EDM calling for a ban:

Manchester's Half a Million Pilgrim Fund

52% of children in Manchester live in poverty, making it the third poorest place to live in Britain. Manchester City Council are cutting front-line services in an act of political defiance – rather than saving money on the bureaucracy. They are cutting 2,000 jobs in order to support their quarter of a million pound CEO and other fat cats. However FoI’s have  revealed a huge rump that could be cut in order to protect frontline services – starting with  the half a million spent every year paying staff not to work, but instead to do union activities. 

Last year £449,088.00 was spent on union pilgrims, taxpayer money being used to represent the interests of people who would rather see Britain go the way of Greece than push their pen for an extra year. Funny you don’t read about that on the Unison placards…

Judge Brands "Pilgrim" a Liar

Jane Brooke had worked for the Land Registry for over three decades before she was sacked for gross-misconduct. Back in 2008, while she was spending 85% of her time as a union pilgrim – being paid to do union work by the taxpayer, Jane began legal proceeding against the Weymouth Land Registry claiming she had repetitive strain injury and could not use a computer. Little did she know that they began to secretly record her to see if she was telling the truth. She was caught working out, swimming and running. When she was sacked she claimed “union victimisation” and took it to a tribunal…

However the judiciary has seen sense for once and branded this pilgrim “inconstant and dishonest” and upheld the fact that “serious misconduct [justified] summary dismissal.” Judge Coles said it “was not cricket”. Brooke says she will continue to work for the PCS. Not on our shilling anymore though…

The War Begins

After the government threw down the gauntlet to the unions yesterday, regarding their taxpayer funded staff, the bruvvers have kicked off in an appropriately pig-headed style. The GMB’s eloquent and inspiring Brian Strutton frothed last night:

“All trade union representatives have a statutory right to time off for trade union duties, which includes providing representation in grievances and disciplinary matters where individuals have a legal right to representation.”

Granted, but the taxpayer shouldn’t be shortchanged by such activity. The unions should pick up the cost of time lost and under no circumstances should it be full-time. 

“Bob Neill is either ignorant of the realities of trade union work or he is deliberately pedalling an anti-union line which is totally unjustified. I would suspect that Mr Neill’s action amounts to unlawful victimisation of trade union representatives and I’ll be taking legal advice on this.”

Go ahead and waste your money, the legal advice will point out that what Neill said was protected by parliamentary privilege, and believe it not, most people would rather see their hard-earned money being spent on front-line services instead of lining the union pockets. It’s war…

Pickles v The PilgrimsGovernment Calls For Review in Taxpayer Funding of Unions

Bad news for the unions. It seems that Guido’s campaign against taxpayer-funded Pilgrims is getting some traction.  In a reply to a written question from Dominic Raab, the Department for Local Government have called on local councils to review the practice of allowing public sector workers to work full-time on union activity, while we pick up the tab. DCLG Minister Bob Neil said:

“I am aware of the public and parliamentary concern expressed in recent weeks over trade union officials paid for from the public purse. The coalition Government’s transparency agenda will help ensure that cash payments to trade unions and the titles of staff posts in local government are open to public scrutiny. At a time when all local authorities need to make sensible savings to help pay off the budget deficit, councillors will rightly wish to review the merits of (full-time) union officials funded by the taxpayer and the provision of the office facilities to trade unions.”

Every year  millions of pounds of taxpayers money goes into the union coffers instead of paying for frontline services. The unions can then spend their subs on political activity, like donating to the Labour Party, instead of staffing. It’s time this whole crooked money washing scheme is fully debated in Parliament…

The War On "Pilgrims" Goes International

As the rolling news channels give the coalition the PR gift of hard-line union members booing what most people will see as perfectly sensible suggestions from Vince Cable, the union war has opened up on another front. Regular readers will be aware of Guido’s campaign against union officials that are paid for by the taxpayer, or “Pilgrims” as they are affectionately known. Having been raised in Parliament a number of times, not least at PMQs, it seems the campaign has spread to the other side of the pond.

The Washington Post reports that Rep. Phil Gingrey will attempt to push a bill through Congress to sharply limit the activity which blights US politics too. The Republican from Georgia sums up the issue nicely:

“Official time is not fair to the government or the taxpayer and works solely to the benefit of labor unions and employees who serve as its representative or steward. With an extraordinary amount of federal employees authorized to use 100% official time on behalf of their union, the federal government loses the immensely valuable civil service for which he or she was originally hired to perform. Additionally, taxpayers pay for absolutely no official productivity on their own behalf while federal employees use official time.”

Quite, though Guido isn’t sure the “Pilgrim” name will catch on over there.

Saturday Seven Up

7upLast week was a monster of a week with super-injunctions, and the breaking of them, driving readers here to find out more as the papers held back for fear of Schillings. Twitter triumphed beating Schillings and the judges with a little help from transparency campaigner John Hemming MP. In a chilling legal environment we kept readers up to date with the battle and made the case against Schillings forcefully.

This blog has also been at the forefront of the Huhne hunt, pushing it along and tracking every development in a story which is now entering its fourth week. You have to admire Huhne’s limpet-like quality in the face of adversity. He spins even faster than he drives, yesterday The Telegraph fell for his line (Guido was sceptical from the outset) and it took until yesterday evening before Vicky Pryce got her rebuttal out via Michael Crick. We’re eagerly awaiting what could be the fourth Sunday of newspaper coverage tomorrow…

All this newsflow made last week the busiest week of the year so far, Monday alone saw 104,923 page views from readers keen on discovering more about super-injunctions and the latest developments in the Huhne saga. The week saw 119,737 visitors making 348,984 visits to view 582,110 pages. Thanks to you we’re Britain’s favourite blog, the one you love and they hate. The top stories last week in order of popularity were:

You’re either in front of Guido, or you are behind…

Hank the Teaching "Pilgrim"

This is Hank Roberts. He’s a geography teacher at Copland School in Brent. Well sort of, that was before he became a “pilgrim”. A full-time union official, paid for by the taxpayer to do full-time union duties, rather than the front-line role he should be doing. The last figures that Guido could get his hands on showed that our Hank cost the school £53,000pa to have him on full-time release for his union activities.

The struggling school has to pay around £106,000 every year to three union officials not to teach. However the local authority only budgeted the school with £70,000 for this malarkey in 2009/10, and £78,000 in 2008/09. In the last two years, a school in one of the most deprived areas of the country has had to pick up a £64,000 shortfall in union funding, out of its already tight and struggling budget . It is feared that this annual shortfall could have been going on for as long as twenty years…

But it gets worse. Despite being paid to work for the brothers, it seems Hank has even grander ideas. He spent the summer term of 2008 as part of the “Wembley Park Action Group”, sitting up a tree to stop a City Academy being built.

This action resulted in him being convicted at Willesden County Court and fined what he called “a substantial sum of money”, believed to be around £3,000. All the way through this mess, the taxpayer was funding his activities, to the despair of his school and Brent Council.

Hank’s personally-aggrandising website states that he is the “Organising Secretary of UNIFY and a member of all three teacher unions” as well as being elected Senior Vice President (2011), National President (2012) of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. Presumably taking more money from these positions…

Guido spoke to Hank earlier and he claims that from September he will be going down to three days a week on union activity. Which makes everything ok. There’s more to this one though. Complaints about Hank have been raised in the past, and fell on some very interesting deaf ears…

Saturday Seven Up

7upThe blog has been busy at the forefront of breaking news this week, leading on two front-page issues: Huhne and super-injunctions. On Monday we were the first to exclusively reveal where Vicky Pryce was on that fateful night in March 2003, pipping Michael Crick to be first to pixel. On Tuesday our poll of over 4,549 readers revealed that 96% thought Chris Huhne was lying.

Wednesday morning economic data released showed the unemployment rate falling, we suggested Ed Balls go back to the drawing board. PMQs was rowdy, Aidan Burley MP asked the PM to back Guido’s campaign against “Union Pilgrims”, the taxpayer-funded union organisers paid to agitate full-time instead of doing their frontline public sector jobs. Thursday marked Day 11 of the Huhne speeding story, the point where Alastair Campbell says the game is up.

Thursday we outed the doctor who has appeared in political adverts for Miliband, Brown, Sadiq Khan and Tony Blair. Friday was super-injunction day again, we named the billionaire who has muzzled Britain’s press and laughed at Ryan Giggs for being the fall guy for Schillings, the lawyers who more than any other firm have brought the law into disrepute. For good measure we revealed that the Shadow Chancellor’s political adviser had failed to declare his financial interests in breach of parliament’s rules.

Last week saw 97,086 visitors make 298,256 visits to view 467,784 pages. Thanks to you we’re Britain’s favourite blog, the one you love and they hate. The top stories last week in order of popularity were:

You’re either in front of Guido, or you are behind…

Pilgrims Picked On At PMQs

Regarding full-time union officials, or Pilgrims as they have come to be known, Guido wrote last week:

“There are 2,493 Pilgrims across the public sector, union officials, paid not to provide the service they represent, but instead do political activities that should be funded by the unions. Without having to pay their staff, the unions can spend the money raised through their subs on other things, like keeping the Labour Party solvent.”

Well there was certainly one happy reader. This is what Aidan Burley had to ask at PMQs:

Mr Aidan Burley (Cannock Chase) (Con): There are currently 2,500 trade union representatives across the public sector paid not to provide the service that they represent but to carry out campaigning activities that should be funded by the unions—and because the unions do not pay their salaries, they can spend their subs on other things, such as subsidising that lot over there. Does the Prime Minister not think it time that that was reformed?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend raises an important point. [Hon. Members: “No he doesn’t!”] It is interesting that whenever someone raises a point about union funding they get shouted down by the Labour party, because Labour Members do not want any examination of what trade unions do, or how much money they give to the Labour party. [Interruption.] I think that they protest a little too much

This week, Guido will be exposing another Pilgrim, this time a teacher. In the meantime Guido strongly encourages Aidan and his collegues to sign EDM1799 demanding an end to this obscene loophole.

Video via Dom Robinson

Saturday Seven Up

7upGuido has spent the week “Huhnting”. Last Sunday’s papers revealed that the wily Secretary of State for Energy, Chris Huhne, had forced “someone close to him” to accept penalty points to avoid losing his driving licence. A criminal offence and a resigning issue. After much tracking down of former staffers, Guido clicked. What if it was Vicky, his estranged wife, who coughed the arrangement, that took the bullet? While she isn’t necessarily going to incriminate herself this Sunday, it will be interesting to see how far she is willing to twist the knife into her soon-to-be ex-husband’s career. The crosshairs even came out.

Super Injunctions have also been the order of the week and Guido certainly gave Adam Boulton a fright on Sky News on Monday, when he gave some very simple media advice to the rich and the famous, it was such good advice that it was repeated last night on Have I Got News for You.

Meanwhile, Neo-Guido, also known as the site’s News Editor, fresh from sparring with Polly Toynbee on Newsnight on Tuesday, stuck it to David Laws and his spinners on the BBC News Channel on Thursday night, highlighting the £99,000 “gift” that was the real reason for the harsh punishment the LibDem golden child.

You’re either in front of Guido, or you are behind…

Pilgrim's Progress to Parliament

Regular readers will remember the fun that Guido had with Nurse Pilgrim, the Unison rep posing as a nurse to smear Lansley, who was making money on the side with her sly consultancy firm and lives in a hippy commune. Yeah, that one.

Well to cut a long story short, Jane Pilgrim’s poison has come to the attention of Parliament, and an EDM has been tabled to fight against the thousands of union officials, just like Jane Pilgrim, depriving the public sector of a front line salary:

Trades Union Officials Funded from the Public Purse. EDM 1799

That this house notes the existence of full time Trades Union officials whose salaries are paid by the taxpayer; further notes that these have been nicknamed “Pilgrims” by the media as a reference to Jane Pilgrim from UNISON who attacked the government whilst claiming to be a nurse, it was subsequently shown that she didn’t practise but instead claimed an NHS salary to work for the union; believes that this practise is deplorable; further believes that we do not know how many Pilgrims there are in Britain but each one deprives the taxpayer of valuable frontline services; resolves to continue to work towards a ban on Trades Union Pilgrims.

Guido knows there are MPs reading this, and he might put you on the nice, rather than the naughty list if you sign it.

Council Pilgrims

Tory MP Alok Sharma has been digging into the union officials that are paid full time by the state. Basically local government versions of Nurse Pilgrim, whom Guido exposed last week.

Sharma asked the number of council-paid employees working full-time on trade union business, as well as the aggregate bill and the estimated cost of any other resources used by these officials

319 of 429 councils responded to the FOI request. 132 had a paid full-time union official in at least one of the last 3 years, whilst 187 did not. As yesterday, 110 councils had not responded including the  slashing Labour controlled Manchester City Council.

The total salary bill over the last three years for full-time union reps was £35 million. This does not include the cost of employing someone else to do the job vacated by the union reps. The unions should be paying for these staffers, not the taxpayer.

Meanwhile our favourite Nurse Pilgrim is causing trouble again. Outraged that the hospital she works at won’t be shutting down for the Royal Wedding she is organisng an official complaint

From: Jane Pilgrim [mailto:Jane.Pilgrim@███████.nhs.uk]
Sent: 26 April 2011 16:48
To: ████████████████
Subject: RE: royal wedding
Sensitivity: Confidential

Dear All,

It seems that the Trust are putting up stiff resistance to our various letters,

It does now seem that a collective grievance would be appropriate. UNISON has agreed to this..

Please let me know if you wish to be part of a collective grievance by 11th May,

Many Thanks

Jane Pilgrim ( Staff Side Secretary)

Guido wouldn’t have had this “peace and love” hippy squatter down as an arch-monarchist. Especially as she has now joined the Green Party who are abolitionist. Heaven forbid she might actually have to do a days work though. How exactly is Jane expecting lives to be saved if everyone at the hospital gets the day off?

A Pilgrimage to Westminster

Following exposés by both Guido and the Mail on Sunday into the activities of Jane Pilgrim, pressure is now mounting to make the practise of employing trades union officials full time on the taxpayer illegal. David Morris MP just raised this at today’s Health Questions:

“There have been press reports recently that money earmarked for frontline NHS services is being used by hospitals to pay salaries to Trade Union officials.

[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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