Letter: Why we should oppose union honoraria

Submitted by AWL on 16 March, 2021 - 5:05
Twenty pound notes

At my recent Unison health branch AGM a list of honoraria payments was proposed and ratified. Payments were to be given for all elected branch positions, from £800 to £150.

Branch policy states that payments are made as recognition of unpaid work done outside of normal working hours. l said I wouldn’t take the honorarium for my position, and the branch agreed to debate the issue at a future meeting.

Some other branches pay much more than mine, but comrades in Wakefield, Barnet, Nottingham, and elsewhere have told me they’ve convinced their branches to drop them entirely. (Except sometimes for auditors, which seems to me a reasonable exception).

According to Unison rules branches can spend up to 10% of their income on honoraria. The total amount paid can be up to £12,000, with some branch secretaries getting several thousand pounds a year.

Officers who get the payments then have a vested interest in staying in their position so they can keep receiving the payment.

Other branch members who attend conferences, meetings, protests outside their work time don’t get the same payments.

It becomes accepted practice that union activity outside of work hours should be paid for, rather than being an expectation of union activists.

The debate is about our commitment to a trade unionism that rejects the view that there should be a material privilege attached to being a union representative. We should oppose these payments, and not take them if we can’t yet convince our branches.

Jayne Evans, Wirral

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