Communication Workers' Union could be on the brink of financial collapse

A culture of elitism among top ranking officials in the country's biggest communication union has been exposed by the union's lower-ranking members

by Natalie Glanvill on 1 November 2012 15:09


The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) is on the “verge of financial meltdown” as allegations from Union members expose “outrageous abuses” of money, according to emails obtained by

An open letter to all branches, Trustees and the National Executive of the CWU by several concerned members and activists lists several damming allegations that the “Union finances are being operated not for the benefit of all members, but for a small group at the top of the Union”.

The document reveals that there is a culture of elitism among top ranking union members in which lower-ranked members of the CWU have in the past been afraid to speak out.

“We have chosen to remain nameless as we do not believe opposing views in the union are welcomed or indeed tolerated within the CWU. There seems to be a genuine fear within the union to have an opposing view on issues to that of the Union’s elite”, the letter says.

The CWU is the biggest union for the communications industry in the UK with over 200,000 members including firms such as; Royal Mail, Post Office, O2, British Telecom (BT), and has members within the financial, engineering, computing, clerical, driving and retail industry.

The allegations revealed in the open letter suggest “rumours are rife of golden handshakes, of people who have left for various reasons but remain on the CWU payroll, of people being financially bailed out because of professional shortcomings and jobs being created for mates of senior officers to the union”.

The document reveals, first and foremost, that many members of the CWU felt powerless to change the financial abuses within the union and even more so, to “challenge the Senior Deputy General Secretary, the General Secretary, the Finance Department or the Elected NEC over how the union finances are being used on behalf of the members”.

As a result of members' deliberate attempts to expose mismanagement within the CWU, it has come to light that the NEC and the General Secretary have mislead CWU members on several occasions involving pay rises, cash payments and backdated annual leave payments.

Despite a document by the NEC stating that CWU General Secretary, Billy Hayes did not take a pay rise in 2005/06, the “statement appears not to be true”.

Documentary evidence submitted by the CWU to the Certification Office indicates Hayes's salary has risen consistently from £74,634 in 2003 to £90,210 in 2011. CWU’s 2011 accounts reveal Hayes received nearly £30,000 in a “cash payment in lieu of accrued annual leave”.

The open letter reveals a statement which reads, “In accordance with his contract of employment, during the years W Hayes received a taxable, non-recurring payment of £29,580 in lieu of 87 days unused holiday entitlement accrued since 2000”.

Backdated annual leave was taken to a “new level” after the NEC recommended that a “further £133,000 be paid to other officers and members of staff”, the document reveals. With no other agenda but to see the Union “finances being properly managed and accounted for”, many members were left enraged about the decision to pay-out backdated annual leave as the procedure is “open to abuse” and considered “doubtful if annual leave (for individual officer’s) is diligently recorded”. “

Members find it hard to understand how massive backdated claims can be substantiated in the first place and even more so, how it is possible to justify these claims over such a long period of time. Surely as a trade union we should be insisting our employees at ALL levels take their annual leave in the periods that it becomes due?”

The CWU appears to have ignored rules set out by the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act of 1992 after the Certification Office found that it “appears to imply that political fund expenditure has been made out of a non-political fund” and raised concerns over the Union’s bulging political fund budget whose surplus has risen from £32,193 in 2009 to a deficit of £171,236 in 2010.

In reply to the Certification Office, Hayes said acknowledged the deficit was “unacceptable” and admitted “inadvertently and incorrectly general funds where [sic] used on occasions”.

Concerned members suggest in the document that the Union should sell the Education Centre at Alvescot and the Elstead Hotel in Bournemouth to avoid the union going bankrupt or being taken over by another union. Members and activists also make clear that transparency is vital for the CWU and have said that an independent inquiry must be held and the report should be sent to all of the Union branches.

Natalie Glanvill is an Editorial Assistant at The Commentator and tweets at @NatalieGlanvil1

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