We shouldn’t waste taxpayers’ money on union officials

There will be an awful lot of people scratching their heads at the news that taxpayers’ money is being used to fund the posts of union officials at local councils.
I have to say I’m one of them.
Yesterday The Sentinel revealed that almost £800,000 of your money was being spent employing people to serve the thousands of union members working for local authorities in North Staffordshire and South Cheshire.
In their defence, the unions say they do make a contribution towards the cost of employing these glorified nannies.
They also argue that due to the current austerity measures and waves of redundancies these officials are needed more than ever.
However, I suspect there are many people working in the private sector who will be rolling their eyes at this largesse.
Frankly, I object to this waste of public money for a number of reasons.
Firstly, when you pay your council tax you expect it to fund bin collections, schools, street lighting and the like.
I’m pretty sure you don’t expect it to be used to fund the posts of people who are providing no public service whatsoever.
Secondly, at a time when frontline services are being cut, swimming pools closed and children’s centres placed under threat, how can anyone possibly justify spending hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money on union officials?
If these posts are so vital to union members then I would suggest that the unions themselves should be funding them in their entirety.
Thirdly, I also think these roles make something of a mockery of the fact that our councils all have human resources staff.
Surely the helpful folk in these departments do a very similar job to dozens of hand-holding union officials.
For those of us operating in a non-unionised environment, where you either sink and swim based on your own ability, this kind of babysitting in the workplace is an alien concept.
Is it any wonder that there is such an ‘us and them’ divide between the private and public sectors?
Strike action – also known as a royal pain in the backside – is something that many of us will never have the luxury of inflicting on other people.
The fact is that under the coalition Government, the public sector is undergoing a radical overhaul.
This has resulted in cutbacks, job losses and great hardship for hundreds of thousands of people.
The only surprise here is that anyone is surprised that it is happening.
We need to appreciate that until 12 months ago the public sector had been largely shielded from the global economic crisis.
Talk to many private sector employees and they will tell you that in recent years they have been through several rounds of redundancies and suffered pay freezes, pay cuts and changes to the terms of their pensions as their employers have attempted to survive in this most challenging of climates.
Only now is the bloated public sector being exposed to the kind of rigorous rationalisation that many of us have experienced for five years or more.
So forgive me if I don’t down tools and come out in support of the public sector workers taking industrial action at present.
You see, it is very easy for people, particularly in an area like Stoke-on-Trent, to default to the view that those Tory toffs are again attacking the poor working class, Labour-voting public sector workers.
They would be wrong.
Indeed, it is very instructive that Labour leader Ed Miliband has been less that fulsome in his support for the industrial action by public sector workers which wrought havoc across the country last week.
Like all other sections of our economy, the public sector cannot and should not be immune to the harsh economic realities of 2011.
Local councils – partly because they are so heavily-unionised – are from top to bottom extremely inefficient and overly-bureaucratic. Just ask the people who work there.
In addition, council employees are, more often than not, completely unaccountable to the public they claim to serve because they are ‘protected’ by their unions.
I say we should not be throwing your money at union officials whose posts simply reinforce these unfortunate truths.
Do you believe taxpayers’ money should be spent by councils on employing union representatives?


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