The preliminary agenda for Unite’s biennial policy conference to be held in late June reveals grassroots pressure for a 20% cut in Labour funding because of the party leadership’s stance on trade union freedoms and strikes against austerity and cuts in public services. A number of similar motions propose that, until the party changes its stance on each of these issues, 10% of the political funding that historically would have gone to the party be used “to directly campaign for trade union freedoms” and a further 10% “be paid into Unite’s National Dispute Fund.”
Although it is not known how the motions originated, they may attract widespread support within the union because, whilst they build on the disappointment throughout the union with the stance taken by the leadership candidate they backed, the proposal does not propose reviewing or breaking the link (as two other motions do), merely diverting part of the money to relevant purposes. The full motion (with minor variations) reads:
This Policy Conference resolves that until the Labour Party adopts and actively pursues policies in support of trade union freedom, at least 10% of members’ Political Fund contributions that would historically have been spent on the Labour Party shall be used by Unite to directly campaign for trade union freedoms instead of being used for contributions to, or support for, the Labour Party.
This Policy Conference resolves that until the leadership of the Labour Party publicly supports Unite members taking industrial action against austerity and in defence of public services, at least 10% of members’ Political Fund contributions that would historically have been spent on the Labour Party shall be paid into Unite’s National Dispute Fund.
To ensure transparency, this Policy Conference resolves that Unite’s accounts will show contributions, expenditure, assets and liabilities relating to the Political Fund separately from its general funds.
Other motions reveal similar antipathy to the party leadership’s stance. One notes “too many within the labour party, including current and aspiring MPs, play lip service to the Trade Union movement”. It suggests dealing with this “tokenism” by supporting union lay members to become active at all levels within the party and the trade union-Labour Party liaison organisation (TULO) with training to enable them to become councillors and MPs.