British taxpayers are suffering but union bosses are fighting reforms that would ease the pressure on them, while they sit on six-figure pay deals - suggests campaigner
Yesterday morning, many employees of the United Kingdom Border Agency were supposed to be on strike. It was called off by the Public and Commercial Services Union just as we were all arguing over what had made the economy tank by 0.7 per cent, in the second quarter of 2012. The PCS union said it changed its mind after the Home Office had promised to create hundreds of new jobs and increase investment. Mysteriously though, Home Office minister Damien Green denied that the government made any concessions at all. Perhaps, cancelling the strike was just a way of keeping the British Chancellor's woes on the front pages for a little longer.
Either way, the PCS strike would have meant significant disruption to the Olympics with border staff out of action during one of the peak periods that visitors were pouring past the customs desks. And it is not just the PCS that have threatened action during the London 2012 Olympic Games. Train drivers union Aslef is set to strike, affecting the East Midlands Trains during August. And Tube and bus drivers are getting more money for working during the Olympics, after politicians paid them off. Union bosses are clearly ready to play hard-ball to get their way.
Last week, the TaxPayers' Alliance revealed the six-figure remuneration deals that these class warriors receive. For instance, Mark Serwotka of the PCS got pay and benefits of more than £115,000. The bosses at Aslef enjoyed total remuneration of £170,000, although this was split between two of them. The previous boss of Aslef even got £17,000 worth of 'accommodation' benefits. How many taxpayers can hope to receive that kind of help? How many of his own members get such generous perks?
But what does a union baron's pay have to do with taxpayers? They do not pay for it, so what is the problem? The truth is that public sector trade unions have set aside substantial war chests to fight against necessary spending reductions and changes to unaffordable pension schemes. The unions are busy decrying cuts that have not even really happened yet. Even yesterday's woeful gross domestic product numbers showed that government services expanded while other components contracted badly. Taxpayers are suffering but union bosses are fighting reforms that would ease the pressure on them, while they sit on six-figure pay deals.
What is more, the unions they run receive substantial subsidies at taxpayers' expense. In 2010-11, the subsidy amounted to at least £113m both in direct payments and paid staff time. That includes the equivalent of nearly 2,500 staff working exclusively for unions, but paid for by taxpayers to work on the frontline. That means nurses not looking after patients, teachers not teaching children and council totem pole artists not making nice totem poles. That massive subsidy undoubtedly eases pressure on trade union finances, which means more funds to organise industrial action. It could even indirectly support executive pay.