British taxpayers have been forced to hand over £18 million in subsidies to the Unite trade union whose leader spent the beginning of May in Cuba celebrating the 51st anniversary of the Fidel Castro communist revolution.
Unite, and the two unions that formed it (Amicus and the Transport & General Workers Union), received the tax money under two little-known funds “to improve management and training for its members.”
It has been the biggest beneficiary of one of the schemes, the Union Modernisation Fund, and received a sixth of all the money given out under the Union Learning Fund.
The money merry-go-round is made even more outrageous by the fact that Unite has donated over £30 million to the Labour Party over the past decade. In effect then, the taxpayer has paid for the Labour party to function.
Joint-General Secretary of Unite, Tony Woodley, who is paid £122,000 per year for his job, spoke last week at a rally in Havana, Cuba, held to mark the 51st anniversary of the communist military coup which installed Fidel Castro as dictator of that island country.
Cuba is effectively a one-party state. The Cuban Communist Party controls who can run for elections.
The lack of democracy in Cuba appears to be no problem for Unite and Mr Woodley, who is a Labour Party activist and supporter who famously tore up a copy of the Sun newspaper on the podium at his party’s 2009 annual conference.
On 2 May, Mr Woodley addressed a cheering crowd of “Cuban solidarity activists” in the Convention Palace in Havana.
Mr Woodley is also the man behind the current wave of strikes affecting British Airways.
According to reports, Mr Woodley’s “holiday” in Cuba was one of the reasons why talks between BA and the union were delayed.
Last year, Mr Woodley saw his pay and benefits package increase by 20 percent, while public service sector workers — who make up most of Unite’s members — were forced to endure pay freezes or redundancies.
Mr Woodley also received a £6,603 benefit from a union loan towards a maisonette he and Unite are buying in south London and £5,343 in car fuel benefit.
Derek Simpson, 64, Unite's other joint general secretary, received a salary of £97,027 in 2009, up 4 percent on the previous year, a housing benefit of £38,340 and £24,480 towards his chauffeur-driven car.
Bob Crow, leader of the RMT rail union, saw his pay and benefits rise by 8 percent to £91,646, while Billy Hayes, leader of the Communication Workers Union, received a pay rise which took his package to £88,438.
* Workers who are looking for an honest trade union would do well to investigate the Solidarity union which can be found by clicking here.