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Strengthen the link, don’t weaken it

Defend the Link  full colourThere have recently been widespread sensationalist and inaccurate media reports about the relationship between our Party and trade unions. But the money that working people contribute to British politics is the cleanest in the business.

The long-standing relationship between unions and the Labour Party has not always been easy even though it has delivered great advances such as the NHS, the minimum wage, anti- discrimination laws and paid holidays. The status quo isn’t working. For example, in 2004, our union successfully moved a motion at Labour Party Conference in favour of public ownership of our railways. Regretfully, this did not appear in subsequent manifestos. I believe that we should use the review as an opportunity to strengthen our link so that trade unions can better pursue their members’ wishes.

Only around 1% of the British population is a member of a political party. Unfortunately, this means that the involvement of ordinary people in politics is minimal. I would love to see Labour becoming a mass party of working people. However, this can’t be done at the expense of the collective voice of its affiliated trade unions and will not be achieved unless Labour has policies that are in touch with the aspirations of working people. In our case, a commitment to public ownership of our railways would be a great start!

The Labour Party’s raison d’être is to provide a political voice for organised workers. There can be no Labour Party without affiliated trade unions. Any attempt to end the collective representation of trade union members will by default lead to the creation of a ‘new party’ that could not honestly be called a ‘Labour Party’. That is why TSSA will be campaigning extremely hard to ensure that the collective voice of trade unions prevails!

Manuel Cortes is General Secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA). This article first appeared in Defend the Union Link – Let’s Stick Together published by LRC

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