May 24, 2016 Print

People often think of government in idealized terms, as protecting the rights and interests of all people, especially the less fortunate. The perverse incentive structure of the public sector, however, tends to prioritize the demands of the powerful and politically connected. The TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA), an Atlas Network partner based in the United Kingdom, has argued for years that taxpayer money should not be spent subsidizing powerful trade unions and funding lavish “golden goodbye” payouts to retiring politicians and bureaucrats. The TPA has added two victories to its impressive list of achievements, when recent pieces of legislation ended public-funded payroll deductions for trade union subscriptions and established new caps for payments to people leaving public-sector employment.

“Over the last 12 years, the TaxPayers’ Alliance has argued that taxpayers’ money should not be used to subsidise trade unions,” the TPA explained. “Huge amounts of our cash is given to unions, either directly through funding or paid staff time at public sector bodies. A number of bodies also automatically deduct trade union subscriptions through the payroll, often without charging the union for that process. It is wrong that taxpayers have seen their money used to subsidise trade unions, who organise strikes that disrupt services for which taxpayers already pay handsomely. We were pleased, therefore, to see the Trade Union Bill receive royal assent. This is the culmination of years of campaigning and hard work by our campaign and research teams, as well as numerous letters, phone calls and messages of support from our supporters.”

The TPA expressed disappointment that “the government withdrew from its original plan to end the practice of supporting the collection of trade union subscriptions altogether,” because private membership dues in trade unions shouldn’t be subject to public-sector processing at all. Still, this is an important first step for ending taxpayer funding of trade unions, especially considering that the law’s more stringent representative strike requirements will make it more difficult for “a small minority of militant activists” to grind the economy to a halt.

“Following the release last year of our Public Sector Rich List, our most comprehensive single piece of work on public sector pay, perks and pay-offs, the government has now formally limited the egregious golden goodbyes we see all too often in the public sector,” the TPA said about its second recent policy victory. “The Enterprise Act, also receiving Royal Assent this week, legally ends the six figure pay-off, with the new law putting a cap of £95,000 to any person leaving the public sector. Another win for TPA campaigning — not only in setting the news agenda but directly influencing government policy.”