AN ANGRY taxpayer is questioning why Hartlepool council pays more than £50,000 a year for union workers.
Shane Moore, chairman of Hartlepool Conservative Future, raised questions after it emerged Hartlepool Borough Council funds the salaries of union employees who represent authority workers.
Last year, the council paid £53,122 for the equivalent of just under two full-time union employees.
The cost met by the council included the union workers’ salaries plus employer national insurance and pension contributions.
And figures published by the Taxpayers’ Alliance pressure group estimated Hartlepool council paid £56,385 in 2009-10 and 2010-11 for what would be two full-time union employees.
Mr Moore, a dad of one from Seaton Carew, believes unions, such as Unison which had a net income of £18m last year should pay – especially at a time when Mayor Stuart Drummond predicted next year’s budget will be the “toughest ever”.
Mr Moore said: “The issue I have is why is the council paying for it and not the union?
“As a union man myself I have nothing against union officials working within the council, but if they are working full time it should be paid for by the union themselves.
“The council and taxpayer are picking up the bill when it should be the union.”
But both the council and Unison, which represented workers along with GMB inside the council, said the arrangement saves the council money in the long term.
Many council employees are members of Unison which is Britain’s biggest public sector trade union.
A spokesman for Hartlepool Borough Council said: “In common with many other local authorities, there has been a long-standing arrangement for the council to cover the salary costs of trade union employees.
“This arrangement has resulted in the council having a strong working relationship with trade unions over the years and has actually helped to save money over time due to the regular dialogue and the ability to resolve any issues quickly.”
Mike Hill, regional organiser for Unison, said: “It’s important to remember that workers are entitled to representation by law and that an organisation the size of the council benefits from providing time off for union activities.
“Our representatives in Hartlepool provide true value for money through the promotion of good working practices, conflict resolution and support to an organisation and workforce under attack from Government cuts.”
Mayor Stuart Drummond said the council’s funding for union employees would be reviewed during the budget.
He said: “As part of the budget process we will be looking at everything.”