£30,000 trade union payment branded ‘abuse of the public purse’

15:00 11 November 2012

Cllr Steven Markiewicz

Cllr Steven Markiewicz

Archant

TRADE union Unison was paid nearly £30,000 of taxpayers’ cash in Welwyn Hatfield over the past two years, new figures have revealed.

The payments by Welwyn Hatfield Council, one for £14,096 in 2010 to 2011 and another for £14,427, were unearthed by pressure group the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA), in a probe into union funding.

Welwyn Hatfield Council said the cash were the equivalent to half a post, and were for the estimated time given for trade union activity.

It has been branded an “abuse of the public purse” by a critic, but the union has hit back - claiming it saves public cash.

The TPA has revealed that hundreds of public sector bodies have made payments to the union in the past two years.

Tory borough councillor Steven Markiewicz said: “As I understand it, we have a statutory duty to pay union officials while carrying out union duties, so union officials would be our employees allowed time off to carry out union duties.”

But he branded the situation “Spanish Practices” and an “abuse of the public purse”.

He added: “I believe that trade union members should be responsible for paying officials, not the taxpayer - particularly as on occasions unions take decisions that inconvenience the public.”

Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It is simply wrong taxpayers are seeing their money used to pay thousands of trade union activists who organise strikes which disrupt the services they rely on and pay for handsomely.”

But Unison dismissed the findings of the report, claiming that union reps avert strike action, and save the taxpayer money.

The union’s general secretary Dave Prentis said: “If this unaccountable, low-tax pressure group got its way and trade union reps in the public sector were stopped, it would cost the taxpayer a fortune.

“To suggest that trade unions are being subsidised by the taxpayer is misleading and wrong.

“Trade union reps are working hard to make our public sector more efficient for taxpayers.

“And we know they already give 100,000 hours of extra work outside of their facility time.”

The figures, released last week, reveal that neither Herts County Council nor Hertsmere paid any money to the trade union in the last two financial years.

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