Friday, December 30, 2011


Jane Pilgrim: the face of union corruption and theft. And what a face it is...

Many despise Guido as a muckraker and a "bad" blogger: these allegations may be true, but your humble Devil has always found him rather entertaining (and thoroughly fond of a good drinking session).

And, let's face it, by certain measures—namely making money from blogging, and setting the government agenda—Guido is rather more successful than most of the rest of us.

One campaigns that I am fully behind is Guido's crusade against "Pilgrims"—union activists funded by the taxpayer and not by the unions themselves.
Eighteen months ago Guido was chewing the cud with a source who works in education in some Westminster watering-hole. Even after four Guinnesses, he still did not believe the story he was being told. Apparently there were teachers that were paid full-time salaries, yet worked full-time on trade union activity. Another teacher had to be employed to cover for this activist, this pushed a particular school over budget. Guido didn’t really think much more on the subject until a piece of research by the Taxpayers’ Alliance [PDF] came across his desk a few months later. Their formidable FoI team had scatter-gunned almost every area of the state, trying to work out exactly how much of our money was was being wasted on unions bods who are paid for by us rather than out of the union members’ subscriptions. That leaves plenty of union money around to prop up Ed Miliband and bus people around the country for astro-turfed protests. It was on…

Heavy unionisation is largely a public sector phenomenon (although ex-public sector businesses—such as BA or BT—tend to carry this legacy too) and a great many professions are de facto closed shops (the education and medical sectors spring most readily to mind).

As long-time readers will recall, your humble Devil is not a fan of The Unions. In fact, I have written numerous posts—most pertinently, this one—laying out why. In summary, unions were formed to counter a problem that, largely, no longer exists (unbridled employer power over an unskilled workforce with few options), they increase unemployment, and because they are damaging to their employees and to their customers (largely the British taxpayer).
The unions now largely exist to extort more money from you and me, on behalf of their members, through our taxes—subs that you and I must pay involuntarily. These subs are then used to enforce collective bargaining so that you and I, despite suffering from a massive recession, must pay out ever more to a public sector that delivers less and less.

Furthermore, of course, such collective bargaining diminishes the quality of the workers in that industry—it doesn't matter whether you are good or bad at your job, you will still get the same pay. It is a system that rewards mediocrity at the expense of skill and dedication—thus calling into question whether the unions actually serve the best interests of their members. After all, if a bad teacher must get the same pay rise as a good one, then the good teacher's pay rise is less than it might have been.

In a near-monopoly such as the education system—especially since education is compulsory—all of this means that the general public have no option but to pay the higher (and often undeserved) wages, and reward failure; not only this, but their children's education is then screwed up and these young people's lives irreparably harmed.

For the purposes of this post, the really valid line in that quote is the first one:
The unions now largely exist to extort more money from you and me, on behalf of their members, through our taxes—subs that you and I must pay involuntarily.

And since most of their members are in publicly funded industries, that means that the best way for the unions to get more money for their members is to play politics. And they do this very effectively, mainly by providing the vast majority of the funding for one of the two main political parties—the Labour Party.

The Labour Party is famous for basically bankrupting the country every time that they are elected‚ and this dubious skill is—in large part—due to the fact that a Labour government must pander to its union paymasters.

There are several ways that the last Labour government did this:
  • large salary increases for public sector workers (especially if you belong to a union. Interestingly, I was in a hospital in the North, recently, and in the main entrance lobby, they had a large banner setting out why members of staff should join a particular union. The first point was "you will get paid more".);

  • provided millions of pounds of funding through entities such as the Union Modernisation Fund (what this modernisation consisted of or who it was supposed to benefit, I've never been sure. But if it doesn't benefit the taxpayer, then why are we paying for it?);

  • providing taxpayer-funded staff, venues and facilities.

The first is pretty obvious really—and has, in fact, brought this country to its knees financially.

The second was (and is), as far as I am concerned, a straight piece of money-laundering by the Labour Party, as Shane Greer pointed out in2007.
Without dropping a beat Gordon has today given a further £2.8m of taxpayers’ money to the unions to top up the Union Modernisation Fund; a fund that has already received £10m of taxpayers’ money. Oh, I almost forgot to mention Labour received almost £17m from unions last year.

But if the unions can afford to give £17m in donations to Labour doesn’t that mean they have more than enough money to pay for ‘modernisation’ without the taxpayers’ help? In fact it looks a lot like they’d even have enough left over to make a hefty donation to the Labour Party (and pay for some placards).

If anyone can explain how the Union Modernisation Fund is anything more than a money laundering operation to turn tax revenue into political donations I will be eternally grateful.

It was in 2006 that Guido posted this helpful little diagram illustrating this concept.

Why are taxpayers funding the "modernisation" of the unions anyway? Isn't that what union subs are for? Taxpayers' money is being handed over to a bunch of thugs whose main aim is to increase the amount of taxpayers' money they get: this is akin to me giving some of my money to a man so that he can extort more money from me.

Actually, it's more like me extorting your money from you, and then using that money to pay a massive, psychotic, baseball bat-wielding Glaswegian to come over and extort more from you "in order to pay for ma' fucking weans Christmas presents".

It's even more ridiculous—and really fucking annoying—that Cameron has decided to continue with this Union Modernisation Fund farce.
This does not bode well for Cameron's tactical nouse, fiscal responsibility or his supposed belief in individual liberty. In the massive fucking financial hole that this country is in, we simply cannot afford to keep giving tens of millions of pounds to the unions so that they can ensure that their members—who are overwhelmingly in the public sector—can continue to squeeze as much money as possible for as little work as possible.

Cameron is not only continuing to fund his enemies, he is continuing to fund our enemies—and he is doing it with our fucking money.

Further, from the angle of liberty, Cameron should be able to see that it is absolutely flat-out wrong for the general public to be taxed so that a vested interest can continue to operate how they please. I mean, for fuck's sake, I never expected the Tories to be much different from Labour, but surely even they can see that this kind of thing is wrong in principle, as well as practicality.

One can make a case for any number of things being of benefit to society as a whole and, thus, eligible for funding through taxation. The unions are not one of those things.

Cameron and CCHQ knew about the Union Modernisation Fund, because they explicitly confirmed that it would stay (presumably to pursue some stupid bloody policy of appeasement); it is safe to say that the Coalition were also well aware of the third method of funding the unions—which brings us back to Guido's "Pilgrims"...
With the unions agitating it was only a matter of time before someone said something stupid. In April one such taxpayer-funded trade union official put her head above the parapet and claimed to the Standard that Andrew Lansley had lied about NHS cuts at a pre-election visit to St Georges Hospital in Tooting. Unfortunately for the now infamous Jane Pilgrim, Mark Clarke, the local Tory candidate who had organised said visit, had a slightly clearer recollection of events – mainly that Jane had refused to meet Lansley on political grounds. The first shots were fired and suddenly Jane Pilgrim, the union-funded smearing liar, began to unravel. She had a private consultancy firm on the side and lived at the expense of the taxpayer too. Eventually she was forced back kicking and screaming to frontline nursing, but the can of worms had been opened…

Given CCHQ's attitude to the unions, it is unlikely, I think, that they would have done anything about these kinds of disgusting abuses of taxpayers' money (we can only assume that they need the Labour Party to stay afloat: I suspect that some deals were done in the back rooms of Parliament—something to speculate about in the future, methinks*).

It is only because the Taxpayers' Alliance and Guido started kicking up such a stink (with the press then picking up on it), that the Tories suddenly found themselves under pressure to do something about this scandal.
Guido has seen emails sent around senior brothers expressing concern that the activities of Unison’s poster-girl could be the thin-edge of the wedge and they even speculated that her big mouth might ruin the taxpayer funded fun and games for everyone. How right they were. Suddenly, with personification and a focus point, the outrage about the concept of taxpayer-funded trade-union staff grew. Speeches began to be made in Parliament, motions were put down and people began to realise that there is a Nurse Pilgrim in every hospital, school, government department and pen-pushing office in the country. The TPA numbers came alive and the bandwagon was rolling

As Guido began smoking out further pilgrims, David Cameron was put on the spot about at PMQs in May. June saw public opinion turn in the polls. The tabloids waded in and Eric Pickles and Frankie Maude soon got behind the issue. As conference season approached word reached Guido that a breakthrough was imminent. On the eve of Tory conference leaked CCHQ briefings saw MPs given anti-pilgrim lines and Pickles and Maude opened fire from the podium. In less than six months a full government consultation had been announced and the figures mooted as potential savings saw even more people get behind the campaign. Union funded Labour MPs went berserk

Because of the pressure piled on, the Coalition were forced to act—or, at least, promise to act—against a practice whereby the British taxpayer subsidises the unions to the tune of over £113 million a year, through paying for the full-time employment of some 2,840 staff. Plus, of course, the taxpayer gets whacked twice: we have to stump up for another nurse or teacher or council idiot to do the job that the union person was supposed to do.

This is a total disgrace: there is only one group of people who should pay for the unions, and that is the union members. It is time to put the costs back where they belong—or, of course, the unions could cut their costs (perhaps by refusing to bankroll the basically bankrupt Labour Party, or not paying their lying bosses £100k+ every year).

Your humble Devil has been particularly lame this year: whenever Pilgrims have come up, it has been at a time when my blogging inertia was at its height. As such, this is the first time that I have written about them (although, in the future, I shall be following Mark Clarke's Trade Union Reform Campaign with interest).

Luckily, Guido claims that he is in this "for the long haul" and, in this case, your humble Devil is happy to support him.

* It's interesting to note that, shortly after the Tories promised to abolish Pilgrims, the "poison" of state- taxpayer-funding of political parties started bubbling up again.**

** Apparently, there won't be any state-funding "in this Parliament". So, expect to see it seriously proposed for the next one then...


Bill Quango MP said...

I will support your support.

I am a union member, although not a labour party contributor.I can't say I've seen much modernisation in 5 years. The same propaganda on the same badly photocopied paper. no new high tech brochures. not even a powerpoint.

I have been in 3 unions. All of them were concerned about union business, union promotions above everything else.

Why does Cameron support the modernisation scheme? There must be, as you surmise, some dark room/back door agreement that Labour won't mention 'x' if Cameron gives a tiny drop in the ocean of taxpayer's cash to Labour.

There isn't any other reasonable explanation.

Lord Blagger said...

Heavy unionisation is largely a public sector phenomenon

Widen the scope. What the the 'collectives' doing in the UK at the moment and who are they?

Public sector unions are one such set up. Public sector workers against their employer's - the government.

What about the other collectives?

From father's for justice - against the government, to parking campaigns - against the government, they almost all feature the citizen versus the state.

Either rent seeking or protesting, the common factor is the government.

Government is the problem not the solution.

Lord Blagger said...

The Greeks have it right too.

50% of the economy is now the black economy and rising. They have cut the government out of the loop. Starve the beast in practice.

Anonymous said...

> subsidises the unions to the tune of over £113 million a year (roughly £1.6 million for every man, woman and child in the country)

(You're totally right on everything else, of course; just pointing this out for you before the reds do.)

Devil's Kitchen said...


Whoops! Excised...


Anonymous said...

I wonder how her business on the side is going? If I remember it rejoiced in the name "Pilgrim's Way" and advised businesses how best to cave in to union blackmail.

Brassiko said...

Some comments are very valid, but why do most comment leavers have to use such foul language? All it displays is immaturity, low intellect, lack of education and poor vocabulary.

Please try to grow up!


stun said...

Because we're all cunts. Happy now? Any proper English vocabulary includes all the words that the bedwetters now have chosen to dislike. My mother was a well educated lady, originally a refugee from Germany at the age of 9. For her, all English words were of equal merit if used at the right time and in the right context. Seems fair to me.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with this campaign, but can someone please explain the "whacked twice" bit? Guido claims this as well.

Surely the money is only being wasted once - we pay for one set of teachers, and one set of people doing other stuff.

SadButMadLad said...

The "Pilgrim" herself is now in the Green Party if her support for a Green Party member in the last local elections is anything to go by -

Address of Green Party member suspiciously close to her own address at; note the email address for the Crescent Road Community.

Anonymous said...

The Union modernisation fund was a way to channel taxpayer money into the Labour Party, Labour set it up, gave the unions taxpayer money, Unions "donate" to Labour

David Davis said...

Look, people, I don't think we've been really taking this "trade" "union" (the real irony is the "trade" bit: they have nothing whatever to do with classical trading) scam seriously enough for the last 120 years or so. In the 1930s, Stalin famously asked an IRA delegation, come to admire and worship him, "How many priests have you shot?" They answered "none". He shambled out of the room, leaving them, muttering "you people are not serious at all".

There is no reason for "trade unions" to exist in a world where employee and amployer can make a contract, for services and work to be delivered in return for monetary (or other) reward received. Furthermore, we no longer make steel, mine coal, build ships or railways or power stations or roads, or lay cables anywhere by the billion miles. We therefore have no advantage in "collective bargaining of wage rates for thousands and thousands and thousands of people at once, all doing the same thing. Even Boris Johnson's ridiculous iron Olympicky thingy, useless and repellent and 400 feet high, took about five crainies and stevedores to erect, all doing different things.

The new "settlement", to be imposed (the "unions" would say "agreed" but we won't) after the election of the first government of the English Revolutionary-Liberalist-Party, will include the abolition of the "trade" "unions". All of them. including the BMA, the GTC, the whatever nurses have, the NUT, and the like. In fact if we simply bring a Bill to abolish all corporate and/or professional bodies and "unions" formed after 1832, including "charities" (they can start again under a new dispensation for real-charities if they are "serious" about "charity") we will catch nearly all of them.

I'd hesitate to have to create a new, retrospective Criminal Offence: that of having knowingly or un-knowingly been any "officer" (of any grade or rank) of any self-defined "trade" "union" between the years 1867 and 2050 inclusive: but we might have to threaten it in order to drain the swamp and smoke all the bastards out of the woodwork, even if we decide in our limitless clemency to not do it.

David Davis said...

Also, I'm not sure that our Party's proposals go far enough.

Socialism engendered the "trade" unions" on purpose, as an outwardly-charitable, Christian-mimicking method for strangling-at-birth the real, important, industrio-technological take-off of Man, in the late 19th century. It was a masterful throw of the dice of foul, wicked, reactionary, neopastoralist-idyll-Nazis posing as humanitarians (yes I do know about Godwin's Law too) and it's so far almost worked, as we can all see, for we are nearly f****d.

If a way could be worked out to help the British to not want periodically to willingly rub their noses in socialist shit every couple of decades, despite the obvious "lessons learned" each time, then it won't be necessary to make it illegal to possess, share, obtain, download, upload, write or photocopy anything justifying or advocating socialism of any variety.

Of course, there is no question of any kind of socialist being allowed to stand in elections. Too much damage has been done, and lies all about us yet unrepaired: what can they be thinking - that the electorate is stupid?

Lord Blagger said...

That's why I think the following needs to be done.

1. All debts need to be published. (If they aren't on the list, its illegal to pay them)

2. Every tax payer gets a pro rata share of the debt, as an annual bill.

That is all that is needed to solve the problem.

If you doubt it, think about what happens if you suddenly got a bill from the government demanding 225,000 pounds

Roue le Jour said...

I agree with the argument, but as anonymous says at 9:34pm on the 30th, pilgrims only cost once, not twice.

Lord Blagger said...

What about their large pensions?

Look at the real cost, the cost of buying an equivalent in the open market.

1. Annuities are the lowest cost product going. 0.25% pa to administer. What's the cost of a government administered pensions? It not going to be below that.

2. If you think that the cost in the open market is too expensive, inform us how the government can do it cheaper.

Longrider said...

The new "settlement", to be imposed (the "unions" would say "agreed" but we won't) after the election of the first government of the English Revolutionary-Liberalist-Party, will include the abolition of the "trade" "unions". All of them.

So freedom of association won't exist in your new utopia, then?

Whatever you might like to call your party, liberal, it ain't.

Tomrat said...

From the BIS website on the UMF:

The Union Modernisation Fund (UMF) is a grant scheme, launched by the previous government, providing financial assistance to independent trade unions and their federations for a limited period. It was designed to support innovative modernisation projects which contribute to a transformational change in the organisational effectiveness of a trade union. The UMF sought to enhance the ability of trade unions to meet the needs of their members and to make an effective contribution to constructive employment relations and the economy as a whole.

Am I the only one not seeing any cogent artifact of what it actually does? Does it pay for computers? Time lost? Anything tangible? Hmm...

Tomrat said...


I agree with your point but incidentally don't unions and their members enjoy a special status under the law? I believe amongst other things it is the right to down tools without fear of being fired for doing so: Tis a tricky one but gotta say I would be of a mind to halt this right.

Longrider said...

Tomrat - it all depends on whether they follow the legal route when balloting for strike action.

Personally, I don't have a problem with people withholding their labour in the event of a dispute that cannot be resolved any other way. That is a basic civil liberty. But, then, I would expect them to be prepared to accept any adverse consequences that may arise.

G. Tingey said...

And the position, as has been said of employees unfairly victimised, and it still happens, all too frequently, or of employees raising REAL safety concerns …
And then being crapped-on from a great height by the financial power of the employers…
Needs a countervailing balance.

Would this Mr Davis, or the proponent of this article, even, similarly ban the CBI and the IoD?
And the other cosy-corporate “associations”?
Thought not.

In fact, what Mr Davis has proposed smacks of state corporatism, or even actual fascism.

Which is not nice at all …..

Edward Lud said...

In the 1980s, at my school (Newport Free Grammar, nr Saffron Walden, if you must know) there was an English teacher (Mr Kirkham, you ought to know) to whose class I was allocated at about the age of 14. During the course of that entire school year, he actually took the class on either two or three occasions (I cannot recall exactly which), and was absent the rest of the time on union business. Come to think of it, one of the small number of lessons he DID take was spent lecturing us on the iniquities of the government of the day. He was notorious at the school for haring around the place in shirt-sleeves with a piece of paper in his hand, shuttling from one piece of agitation to the next. I could never work out how he got away with it, it was quite blatant, with no attempt at disguising his activities. He was an intelligent man, but a professional fraud.

Lord Blagger said...

Unions aren't being banned.

They just can't act in the same way as crony capitalists and get the government to fund their activities.

They can fund it themselves

john problem said...

It's all so petty, isn't it? I mean if you put all the union members together, the total would still be less than the membership of the National Trust. So who's the more important? Anyway, the best route is what the Germans do - workers and bosses meet - yes, they actually meet and discuss things rather than leap about bad-mouthing each other. And which country still has an automobile industry of its own, eh?

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