"You can wag your finger till your finger's sore
Shake your head till it shakes no more" - The Housemartins, 'Get Up off Our Knees'
Today I had to write a story at work about the power company Eon creating "hundreds" of jobs in Nottingham. that's sort of fantastic news for fans of shitty call centre jobs in the East Midlands, but delving a bit deeper I found out that Eon had, the same day, announced that they were making 600 people redundant in Rayleigh - most of whom, it seems, found out by reading the story in the local paper. Nice.
About two hours earlier I received an press release from the GMB union reacting to the tiny drop in unemployment figures in the UK announced today. In it, Paul Kenny, general secretary of GMB, said: "Paul Kenny GMB General Secretary commented on today’s unemployment figures. He said, “We may be turning the corner on unemployment with a fragile recovery but those without jobs and young workers are paying a very high price for this banker’s recession.
"The multi–millionaire elite who run the finance sector have resumed gorging themselves with bonuses as if nothing had happened. Like the untouchable and unaccountable landed aristocratic elite before them their grip on political power will have to be similarly ended. This must be an issue at the general election.
"In recent months the governor of the Bank of England has taken it upon himself to comment on fiscal policy and he is now calling for cuts in public services which is not his remit. Given the fragile recovery underway Parliament should take full responsibility for both monetary and fiscal policy and the governor, who abysmally failed in his banking regulatory role, should be put out to grass.”
I could spend all day picking this posturing nonsense apart, but the one thing to take into consideration is this: Paul Kenny earns a reported £81,000 a year, plus a car allowance of a futher eight grand on top of that. So, it's a bit rich for the general secretary of a union representing some of the lowest-paid workers in the UK to start talking about the (admittedly vile) bankers "gorging" themselves.
According to an article in Workers Liberty last year, Kenny isn't alone in dragging in a hefty wage. Take a look:
Bob Crow (RMT) - £79,564 in salary, £26,115 in pension contributions, £13,013 expenses
John Hannett (USDAW) - £81,742 salary, £16,389 pension contributions
Billy Hayes (CWU) - £83,530 salary, £14,190 pension contributions
Sally Hunt (UCU) - £63,743 salary, £7,612 pension contributions, £2,705 car benefit (start of June 2006 to end of May 2007)
Paul Kenny (GMB) - £81,000 salary, £21,000 superannuation (pension contributions), £8,000 car
Dave Prentis (Unison) - £92,187 salary, £23,603 pension contributions, £11,646 expenses and car benefit
Derek Simpson (Unite-Amicus) - £62,673 salary, £16,156 pension contributions, £13,333 car allowance, £26,181 housing benefit
Mark Serwotka (PCS) - £82,094 salary, £26,104 pensions contributions, £2,245 additional housing cost allowance and additional housing cost supplement
Steve Sinnott (NUT) - £99,846 salary, £23,963 pension contributions
Tony Woodley (Unite-TGWU) - £59,333 salary, £9,552 pension contributions, car fuel £3,360
Matt Wrack (FBU) - £66,389 salary, £44,281 pension contributions, £5,134 car
For as long as I've been involved in left-wing politics I've always had the idea that any elected working class representative should take the average wage of the people s/he's representing. Clearly, this is not the case in the UK's mostly spineless, bureaucratic union hierachy. So, whilst the fight for union representation in the workplace remains as important as ever during a time when attacks on workers become ever more brutal, so too is the fight within the unions to make them truly democratic and representative of their members.
Hark at me!