Circumferentially challenged Communities Secretary Eric Pickles decided earlier this year to end the practice, known as “checking off”, by which his Civil Servants have their Union subscriptions collected as a deduction from their pay. Some of the Union bashing tendency claimed that this imposed a significant extra cost on employers, but the annual amount – around £300 – was in the petty cash category.
Fat Eric was egged on by the usual suspects on the right, especially the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, who mocked the PCS Union for resisting what they called an “entirely reasonable” move. The Union, however, decided to take Pickles to court, before anyone else in Government caught the habit and imposed it beyond the DCLG.
And yesterday, the PCS Union won their case: Fat Eric has ended up costing taxpayers around £90,000, this being the costs of both parties. That money could have paid for “checking off” in Pickles’ department for the next three hundred years. The presiding judge ruled that Pickles’ move was a breach of contract, something one might have expected him to have figured out beforehand.
Needless to say, those who pretend to be on the side of “Hard-working and hard-pressed taxpayers”, such as the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), were silent for once: that a Government minister has just sprayed £90k up the wall in pursuit of his own misguided prejudice is suddenly no big deal, when the politician concerned is one of their most ardent fans.
But the Fawkes rabble had to say something, and needed to portray the setback as some kind of victory, or at least give the impression that their side was actually in the right. And so it came to pass: “Pickles Refuses to Back Down as PCS Get Off on Technicality” was the magnificently crafted headline, which was an interesting way of telling readers that their pal just lost.
That Fat Eric refused to back down is a statement of the bleeding obvious: that’s why the whole thing ended up in court. And, as for the “technicality”, that would be something otherwise known as both a Contract Of Employment, and successive agreements on pay and conditions between Government and Unions, which cannot be unilaterally binned by diktat.
In other words, Pickles was in the wrong, he should have engaged brain before wasting everyone’s time and money, and he’s been left looking extremely foolish. Moreover, he’s unlikely to trust the Fawkes blog and its hangers-on in Parliament for a very long time to come – not without making sure he gets a second opinion first. So he isn’t the only one to have been defeated yesterday.
Back to the drawing board for the Union bashers. Another fine mess, once again.