Jo Lovelock has been quick to squeal now that her use of council tax payers' monies to fund Reading Labour's donors is public knowledge. I'm not surprised by her leaping to the defence of paying over £100,000 a year to bribe union officials because let's face it that's what it is - a bribe. In fact the amount is more than that if you take into account that the unions have use of three offices rent-free.
The matter of payments for full time union officials did not come before the Personnel Committee when I was on it. The agreement is not listed on the council web site. The payments were not listed individually in any year's budget papers. I only found out because of a tip off from a member of staff and had to ask specifically for a copy of the agreement.
However, if you wish to read it you can find it at : http://www.rbcunison.org.uk/docs/facilities-agreement.pdf
What Jo Lovelock doesn't tell you is that the facilities agreement goes way beyond good employment practice. I'm a union member and former union rep. I have voted for strike action and organised a picket line. I don't need lecturing about the value of unions. But unions are only of benefit when they represent their members, not the corrupting political wishes of their senior officials. I remember when my union leader used Unite's block vote to back the Iraq war at a Labour Party conference against the wishes of its members to curry favour with Blair and Brown. It was a disgraceful episode in the history of the union movement.
It's not just the money. A former union official told me how Labour would employ its members in the council, give them union rep posts and use this agreement to give them time to campaign for them. This is endemic across many organisations, not just the council, where Labour placemen and women are in positions funded indirectly through the council tax. Nice work when you can get it indeed.
Ordinary union members are council tax payers too so what do they get for both their union subs and council tax? Precious little. The main effect of taking this Judas money is that they have been denied equal pay for four years. Their leaders close ties to Reading Labour meant that they have failed to represent their members interests which is the primary role of a trade union.
This should be making you angry, you are getting no pay rise this year and probably not for the foreseeable future, your council tax has gone up, your petrol bill has gone up and your likelihood of redundancy has gone up on top of that RBC are deliberately choosing to delay implementing fair pay and reward.
That last paragraph are not my words. They are Roy Leader's, the chair of the Unison branch. They were written last year. So it made him angry did it? Not angry enough for Unison to refuse Labour's bribe and do the job his members think he should be doing.
My council union insider tells me that they were scared of implementing it because the local Labour party did not want to upset the T&GWU whose members were being paid simply for turning up at work.
The unions could have ensured that the Labour council fulfilled its legal obligations and the NJC agreement by simply refusing to fund the local Labour party. It's something they do rather generously, even negotiating the use of the Unison franking machine for the last Labour campaign. That would have brought real tears to Jo Lovelock's eyes in place of the crocodile ones she weeps for "the vulnerable and low paid". They are vulnerable and low paid because Labour made them so and the unions colluded in it.
How have the unions reacted to Labour being in opposition. None of them have spoken to me about the budget process. Instead all three union leaders are seen trooping into Labour's group room to work out how to return to power the very people who have done their members the most damage. I guess it's to ensure that their bribe will be restored by any future Labour administration. In the interests of being open and honest with the electorate I hope we will see Labour promise to restore these payments to union officials on their election leaflets. I tell you one thing that will be on Lib Dem leaflets: Labour Shame - Lib Dems Introduce Equal Pay for Council Staff to Labour opposition.
But the worse side of the union connivance in this are the vast sums of money that now have to be set aside for back dated equal pay claims. Despite it being Labour's toxic time bomb, it's the coalition administration that has to clean up their mess and become the focus of union propaganda.
A staggering £3m has to be set aside which could be used to offset some of the budget savings but instead needs to be available for legal claims. That's Labour's legacy. Put simply services may have to be cut further because of Labour cowardice and union connivance. Of course the unions are laughing because they are supporting their members in making the legal claims for not implementing equal pay. They truly do have it both ways. Except they are equally culpable for the failure to implement the scheme and every successful claim with mean that the administration will have to find even more savings which they will no doubt blame on the coalition.
The unions have let their members down because of this nice little sweetener from the previous administration bought their silence. It's time this corrupt practice stopped. Union members will be the better for it.