Unions squabble over Santa membership claims

By Justin Parkinson
Political reporter, BBC News

Published
Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Hard-working postie? The Communication Workers Union took umbrage when firefighters "enrolled" Father Christmas

He's still slogging away at the reputed age of 1,750. And his key worker status - at least during December - is undisputed.

But what is Santa Claus's actual profession? Several UK trade unions have got into a festive fracas, as they each try to claim the broad-girthed giver of joy - favourite colour red - as their own.

First it was the turn of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), which tweeted footage of St Nick being driven around in a fire engine.

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This raised the ire of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), which reminded the FBU that Santa's work also involves sliding through hundreds of millions of chimneys in a single night and leaving presents - not to mention sorting through quite a few letters in advance.

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The FBU responded by likening the CWU's claim to Donald Trump's disputed Twitter allegations over the recent US election.

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A branch of the PCS union - which represents civil servants - stepped in to remind brothers and sisters elsewhere in the workers' movement that not all of Santa's labour is on the front line.

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Cue a dramatic intervention from Paul Fleming, recently installed as general secretary of Equity, the union for actors and creative workers.

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Not to be outdone, Musicians' Union official Kelly Wood reminded one and all that Santa's role involves jingling.

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The FBU said it had agreed to take the dispute - first reported by Union News - to talks, presumably over Zoom and involving sherry and mince pies, rather than beer and sandwiches.

The TUC, the umbrella body for the UK's unions, remained non-partisan, telling the BBC that "Santa and his elves know they are better off in a union", without specifying which one they should join.

A spokesman added: "Millions of our key workers can lay claim to being Santa Claus this year. We all owe them a huge thanks for making Christmas possible by keeping services running and keeping us safe."

But, after the BBC's story was published, University and College Union general secretary Jo Grady questioned Santa's suitability to become a member of any organisation claiming to protect workers' rights.

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And the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) queried whether Santa could be classed as an employee in the first place and suggested he look beyond the union movement for likeminded company.

Spokesman Alan Soady said: "Father Christmas leads one of the oldest and most successful family-run small businesses in the world, and is clearly well-suited to being a member of FSB.

"As a local employer, he has a track record of providing skills development, such as the promotion of Rudolph, and supporting his small, close-knit team of elves in achieving their vocational Ho-Ho-Ho-Levels."

"He has an impeccable reputation for providing individual and thoughtful gifts," Mr Soady added, "with a unique in-house delivery service."

There is thought to be little hope of those involved in the membership row resolving their differences during Advent.