Len McCluskey dubbed 'greedy boss' by union rival over £400,000 flat deal
A union official hoping to topple Len McCluskey as boss of Unite has dubbed his rival a "greedy boss" over a £400,000 deal to help him buy a flat in central London.
Gerard Coyne launched his outspoken attack on the first anniversary of the "shared ownership" arrangement, which enabled Mr McCluskey to purchase the £700,000 property.
Under the deal, Unite contributed £417,000 to help its general secretary buy the flat near London Bridge last February. Mr McCluskey provided the rest of the money himself.
Details of the arrangement were revealed by The Guardian in September.
Unite officials insist that such equity share schemes are commonplace, particularly for trade union officials moving to London, that they are properly authorised and generate large profits once the properties are sold.
But in a speech to Michelin works in Stoke-on-Trent, Mr Coyne, who is Unite's regional secretary for the West Midlands, will say the deal should not have been allowed.
"The loan was to help him buy a flat in a very desirable part of central London, a short walk from London Bridge, and close to Borough Market – the sort of place where city bankers enjoy expensive lunches while tourists stroll around stalls that sell artisan bread, organic goats cheese and black pitted olives imported from the rolling hills of Italy," he will say.
"Whilst it is very nice for Len McCluskey to be able to look out of his window on this luxurious panorama, let us just pause to consider the amount of money involved. Put it this way. Most of you, if you are in full time work, will be paying your Unite subscription at the enhanced rate of £3.50 a week.
"Were you to continue to pay that sum unchanged, year in, year out, and live to a very old age, do you know how long it would take you to pay enough to cover Len McCluskey’s loan? The answer is 2,293 years.
"Looking around, I see people in robust good health, but I don’t see anyone here who is likely to live for more than two thousand years. What this means, in other words, is that the subscriptions paid by thousands of Unite members, who may be struggling to make ends meet or may have grown up children still living at home because they have nowhere else to live, have been used to fund Len’s luxury lifestyle.
"And remember, Len didn’t need a loan at all. He could have bought somewhere else in London with his own money. After all he put down nearly £300,000 for his £700,000 flat. It’s only because he wanted to live in such high style that he decided to take another £400,000 from the members.
"Were Unite members asked what they thought about this? No they were not. In fact, at the moment no one knows who in Unite authorised this loan. It wasn’t until six months later, in September, that the executive discussed it. We do not yet know who agreed to give £400,000 of members’ money to Len McCluskey."]
Mr Coyne will add: "Len McCluskey has had not one but three home loans during his time at Unite. Other senior union officials have had similar large benefits. I will end this practice because I don't believe that union bigwigs should get perks that the members who pay our wages don't receive.
"I find it offensive. And to be honest I find it remarkable when I hear Len McCluskey talk about greedy bosses on the TV and radio. The truth is the man who talks about greedy bosses is a greedy boss himself."
The general secretary election was sparked when Mr McCluskey announced he was standing down last month to seek a third term of office.
A spokeswoman for Len McCluskey denied that the arrangement was a loan and accused Mr Coyne of "demeaning the union's democracy".
She said: "This is a shared ownership arrangement. Len McCluskey has not received a loan from the union, the union has invested in property. The property will be sold when Len McCluskey leaves employment and the union will make a profit for its investment. The arrangement is entirely transparent and fully authorised.
"This is a common arrangement used by unions and other organisations to enable officials living outside of London to work there.
"These attacks by Gerard Coyne demean the union’s democracy at a time when the union and its members face so many urgent and serious industrial issues. They are also highly misleading."