My copy of PCS View, my trade union's magazine, arrived through the door on Wednesday, promising to "fight the cuts" before they had even been announced, and condemning the Government for "making ordinary people pay for the economic crisis".
All fair enough, I thought, and directed the magazine towards my recycling bin, together with the assorted flyers and leaflets that accompanied it. Then I stopped and looked at some of these. Most were offering financial services of one sort or another. For example, PCS+, directly affiliated to the union, was offering life insurance. For a mere £12.60 per month, I would receive a payout of £7,500 on my death, or a cashback of £3,301 if I survived till I was 70. Great, except that for the same premium Aviva would insure my life for £75,000 - 10 times the value! - and the cashback would actually represent £1,000 less than had been paid in, even ignoring inflation. "For many people", the blurb read, "an unexpected death could mean financial disaster." Especially if coupled with life insurance from PCS+.
Scottish Friendly were also advertising their services, and in particular their 15-year MoneyBuilder plan - essentially a 'with profits' savings plan, like those wonderful Equitable Life schemes. For an initial investment of £10 per month, rising to £20 per month by year 6, you would receive a guaranteed lump sum of £2,959 after 15 years - only a few hundred pounds less than your total investment of £3,240. A four per cent annual growth rate, which seems pretty optimistic in these times, might even earn you all your money back (though inflation would have significantly reduced its value while Scottish Friendly sat on it).
And I thought that trade unions were meant to fight against the exploitation of workers, not to collude in it.