Cabinet Minister Eric Pickles has clashed with Birmingham MP Jack Dromey as he accused trade unions of snatching more than £250 million from taxpayers each year.
Mr Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, told the Conservative Party conference that he would stop councils employing trade union officials at taxpayers’ expense.
And he accused Jack Dromey, the Labour MP for Erdington, of being a “union baron” who was happy to see cash wasted.
But Mr Dromey accused Mr Pickles of acting like a Victorian mill owner by trying to stop Birmingham council employees receiving union representation.
Speaking to activists in Manchester, Mr Pickles said full-time union officials with salaries funded by taxpayers were taking money away from frontline services.
But Labour refused to criticise them, he said.
Referring to Mr Dromey’s former role as Deputy General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, he said: “Not a dicky bird from Labour’s local government spokesperson, Jack Dromey.
“No wonder. Because that former union baron knows Labour is in hock to the unions.
“In my book, that’s not All Right Jack.
“If unions want to raise money for Labour - do it in your own time, not on the rates.”
But Mr Dromey said: “Now they want to rob them of their right to representation just when the city’s public servants are facing the biggest upheaval in Birmingham’s history.
“Good employers like Jaguar Land Rover give union officials time off.”
Mr Dromey added: “Eric Pickles wants to return Britain to the industrial relations of the 19th century mill owner.
“In fact, he looks the part.”
Mr Pickles also confirmed plans to subsidise bin collections, to encourage councils to ensure bins were collected every week.