A proposal to stop union officials being employed by Leeds city council to work full-time on trade union activities has been rejected.
Councillor Alan Lamb (Cons, Wetherby) made the proposal at a meeting of Leeds City Council last week.
Fifteen full-time union convenors are paid by the council at a cost of £417,000 a year and Coun Lamb (pictured) said the amount was “unjustifiable”He told the Wetherby News this week, that despite losing the vote, he thought the argument had been won.
“Even though we lost the vote, I think we won the argument.
“Taxpayers’ money is being spent on these activities while frontline services are being cut and the cost is totally unjustifiable.
“It may be a small fraction of money in the grand scheme of things, but it’s tax payers’ cash and I think it is totally wrong in the current economic climate.
“Even though we lost the vote, since the meeting I’ve had letters and phone calls of support from people who are outraged by this use of money.”
At the meeting, Coun Lamb said support should be brought to an end because the council was facing massive financial pressures and cutting frontline services.
Coun Lamb said the principle of providing reasonable support to trade unions was right and he was not against trade unions.
He told the meeting that, even if his resolution was agreed, the council would be more than meeting its legal obligations to the unions.
Council leader Keith Wakefield (Lab, Kippax and Methley), said the unions worked with the authority to cut sickness absenteeism and helped it save money that otherwise would be spent on employment tribunals.
He claimed Coun Lamb’s resolution was “just a cynical ploy to deflect attention from Government cuts.”
Coun Tom Leadley (Morley Borough Independents, Morley North) said an enormous organisation such as the council needed a formal structure in relation to the unions.
He also questioned why, if the arrangement was such a problem, the council’s previous Conservative-Lib/Dem administration had done nothing to end it.
Coun Karen Groves, (Lab, Middleton Park) said working with 15 convenors was more productive and efficient than dealing with employees individually.
Coun John Procter (Con, Wetherby) listed a number of Labour councillors who had received union donations to help with their election campaigns and added: “It’s no wonder Labour members speak passionately in favour of them.”
The resolution was defeated 56-31 with four abstentions.