A Midland MP has told how he was abused by opponents who muttered obscenities in the House of Commons as he demanded an end to taxpayer subsidises for union staff.
Aidan Burley, Conservative MP for Cannock Chase, faced a barrage of abuse in the Chamber of the Commons as he condemned the practice of local authorities and public services paying staff to carry out trade union work.
And he said the comments by some Labour MPs went beyond the traditional barracking, as opponents used a series of four letter words to insult him as he was delivering his speech. Mr Burley is leading a campaign backed by a range of Conservative backbenchers to ensure union officials are paid out of union funds, and not by taxpayers.
Leading a House of Commons debate, he told MPs: “It is my simple contention that trade unions should pay for representation within public sector organisations through subscriptions. It is unfair that taxpayers should have to shoulder that burden.”
Mr Burley told The Birmingham Post: “Union bully boys turned up in force. There was the usual noise, but also four-letter words coming across the Chamber at me. Three of them came over after the debate and I actually thought there might be a fight.”
Labour MP Richard Burden (Lab Northfield), who was not in the Chamber for the debate, said: “Mr Burley’s position shows a marked ignorance about the way good workplace relations are forged.”
Birmingham City Council spent almost £1.9 million last financial year employing the equivalent of 62 full-time staff to carry out trade union activities.
The total cost of union representatives to Europe’s largest local authority was published by the authority – but was only uncovered through new human resources computer systems.
A study published by pressure group the Taxpayers’ Alliance last year highlighted union funding by health trusts after it submitted a series of Freedom of Information requests to public bodies. University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation revealed it was employing the equivalent of 2.6 full time union officials. The Taxpayers’ Alliance estimated the cost to the taxpayer at more than £70,000.