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In Bournemouth at the TUC, union leaders firm up against Ed Miliband’s proposals

TUC Congress 2013In Bournemouth for the TUC Congress, the leaders of the three biggest unions affiliated to the Labour Party yesterday firmed up their position against Ed Miliband’s proposals to ‘reform’ the Labour Party trade union link.

Dave Prentis, General Secretary of Unison which already has two sections of its political fund – one affiliated to Labour and the other not, nevertheless said: “although we are put forward as a shining example we will not change the way we do things even if there is a special conference that asks us to do it.”

Unison’s affiliated fund is not an “opt-in” fund of the sort Miliband wants since all the members of Unison’s affiliated predecessors (NUPE and COHSE) were placed in it at amalgamation and the contributions of those who fail to specify which fund they prefer but do not “opt out” altogether are allocated between the sections. Prentis is therefore taking, if anything, a harder line than Paul Kenny of the GMB which announced that it will cut its affiliation next year to the level it expects would result from requiring members to opt in, though this will not affect GMB votes or representation until 2015 and could be reversed anytime before the end of 2014. Dave Prentis added:

If the powers that be in the trade union movement and the Labour party believe that having squabbles and a special conference is going to get people out there to vote Labour they are living in cloud cuckoo land….

We look like a disunited party. Where I was brought up in Leeds, we were taught not to get our dirty linen out in public. If you are divided you lose support in the country.”

Paul Kenny also spoke out yesterday. On the BBC One Breakfast Show, he said:

If the reforms go through as has been trailed in the media … it is inevitable that trade union affiliations to the Labour party would plummet. And it would strike at the very heart of the current collective arrangements and transfer them to individual arrangements and that breaks entirely the collective link with trade unions.

Of the GMB’s decision to cut its affiliation, he said:

These Labour grandees, many of whom never pass up an opportunity to rubbish trade unions, never pass up an opportunity to dish us and talk about how we shouldn’t be in the party – they were all rushing to the barricades on the basis this was a terrible thing the GMB were doing. In fact, what we were doing and what we’ve done is to illustrate the change, the dramatic change, not just in the affiliation fee which is what this cut refers to but of course in the long-term change to trade union support on campaigns, general elections and lots of other things.

Later he added:
Unions have been denigrated – it’s been pretty insulting language. We’re used to it from the Conservatives – frankly, that’s just par for the course. But there were senior Labour politicians who must know the trade unions’ collective voice, they must know the way that we talk to our members, they’re long experienced. And these are the people who have been leading the charge to try and see us exited from the party entirely, which is what the proposals are really all about.

Len McCluskey, as he has done before, adopted a conciliatory tone, when being interviewed on the Marr Show :

I don’t think Ed Miliband is talking about cutting the union link. He’s made the point that he want’s a new relationship with the unions, that 2013 is the time to re-evaluate and we need a different relationship from the one we had in 1913 and that’s why Unite have welcomed the proposals. We actually don’t agree with the status quo, we want to engage in a proper debate and discussion to see whether we can strengthen the relationship and make sure that we create a Labour Party that is on the side of ordinary working people.

However, in answer to a question about how many might opt in, he made it clear that he is just as concerned about the collective voice of the trade unions as Paul Kenny:

Well we’ll have to wait and see but the important thing is, and a lot of people fail to grasp this, that the relationship is on a collective basis. That’s what trade unions operate on, collectivism, and it is important people don’t tie that collectivism to individualism although Ed’s hope is that tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of ordinary trade unions will now actively engage with the labour Party. We’d certainly support that and we’re going to be working enthusastically to see if we can bring that about. 



  1. swatantra says:

    Its about time those ‘allocations’ were sorted out at the time of merger or amalgamation, and not left in limbo. Union Bosses need to get their act together, and understand what their members actually want ie most members would support ‘Opt In’ not ‘Opt Out’, if you asked them.

  2. Rob the cripple says:

    This is all about who is the power within Labour, and the Unions are again playing the game and I’m sick of it, yesterday I opted out of the political levy.

    See Swat I knew how to do it and it took five minutes and the phone number is on the back of the GMB members card, all members of the Unions know about opting out, if you had been in a Union you would know about it.

    Now then all Miliband has to do is simple, he can state at the conference tomorrow that Labour does not want the levy, it also will not accept any money from the socialist Unions or the socialist levy payers. Labour will live within it means, and then say good bye and cheers for all the memories.

    Rename the party the Progress party, sell the name Labour back to the Unions for a few millions and then the Unions can get around a table and discuss who they can get to run the new party, and in ten years time that bloke will state he wants to break away from the Unions.

    I’m really sick of it while Labour playing internal politics the Tories are slowly winning over the public by saying look at the Labour party money money money, while we are in recovery mode and saving the country.

    Simple put whom would you vote for now today Miliband who are arguing with the Unions, or Cameron who is doing politics.

    Cameron wins it for me.

  3. swatantra says:

    The fact is nobody bothers to read the small print, even tho its on the back of your membership card; I dcertainly don’t. You were probably an activist, and the Rule book was your Bible and your knew every word of it. Most workers and Unions have better ways of spending their time, than quoting each clause and subsection.
    What worries me is that Cameron and his Tories are selling themselves to rich donors, many based outside this country and people don’t even raise an eyelid. Thats why I’m in favour of State Funding to stop all this corruption.
    At the end of the day I’m not too keen on anyone whose sold out to the Tories, for whatever reason.

  4. Rob the cripple says:

    Well thanks for that nope I was just a bloke who worked like everyone else, I took on the task of a shop steward when the old one died.

    I did not read the rule book I did not have the time and I soon learned what the Labour party was about.

    And I dam well know the mistake we made getting Miliband elected poor thing is like a child in a sweet shop and the person behind the counter telling him to try this and taste this is one Tony Blair.

    Your the one with the credentials and rule books your the one involved with Labour did you not stand as an MP.

    But opting in or Opting out was explained to all members even way back in 1966, but the issue was in those days the Union were involved with Labour so nobody I knew opted out.

    Today of course it’s highly likely the majority would opt out.

    Not forgetting it was Jack Straw who put forward plans to get the political levy paid in full, since this was Labour money, he was even going to demand Unions which has left the Labour party to pay up.

    It was not long ago that Labour was to try and get all the disaffiliated Unions back into the Labour fold, seems they did not like what was on offer.

    Opting in or out is not the issue, it’s what and where the Labour party is going, right now down the Swanee without a paddle, whom is to blame for that, perhaps the Unions for working on getting a posh sounding school boy to run a political party.

  5. Patrick Coates says:

    RTC what about Labour members who are not in a Union do you want us the Vote Tory as well…suggest you go on Tory Home

  6. Rob the cripple says:

    Well of course you need more then just Labour members do you not to win the next election, do you not need a few Tories you know the swing voters.
    After all did the people not show Labour at the last election how unhappy they are.

  7. Solomon Hughes says:

    This might sound a bit pedantic, but when I was a Unison Branch Sec, members would ask me about the Labour Linked political fund. AFAIR ticking that box meant “I support the Union giving some of my £ to a Labour linked political fund” – which members understood was a way of paying for some political influence for working people. It was not the same as saying “I want to be a member of the Labour Party” : I think a lot more people would say yes to the former than to the latter.

  8. Rob the cripple says:

    I have to be honest when we did a review of people paying the levy, most did not have a clue what we were talking about, the ones that did would say it’s mostly used by the Union is it.

    When we said that a Million quid is paid to labour some stated they were Tory or Liberal others said they did not mind.

    I have a suspicion that labour are going to find this money is going to be cut unless Unions hand it all over which maybe what Miliband is hoping he will state that fund is labour in total.

    They did this once before or tried it.

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