Wednesday, 4 September 2013


The news that the GMB union is to cut the affiliation funds it gives Labour from £1.2 million pounds to around £150,000 pounds in the wake of a row over reform would once have made eyes water at Transport House.  While the Labour Party may silently weep at the loss of the cash, the row has actually kicked off because of moves within the Labour Party to reform union funding so individual union members have to opt in to support the party, rather than being automatically affiliated.

Basically the GMB has thrown a wobbly because the Labour Party has introduced a measure of democracy and self determination with individual union members being able to choose to or not to donate to the labour party. Currently the GMB affiliates 420,000 of its members to Labour, at £3 per member per year the union has openly admitted that approximately 50,000 of the 650,000 GMB members might actually choose to affiliate with the Labour Party. This storm in tea mug, if it does nothing else, can be said to reveal the true nature of internal democracy in some of our trade union.

Now don’t get me wrong I have nothing against fully democratic and transparent Trade Unions working to protect their member’s interests within a democratic society. Our public sector workers are right to agitate in defence of their Pension rights, and are fully entitled to withdraw their labour in the event of dispute.  I am however entirely disillusioned with the Trade Unions because of their petty minded ‘political’ sectarianism and their pretty much pointless (funding related) relationship with the Labour Party.

I am a firm believer in Trade Union's but I equally firmly believe that the old historic relationship between the Trade Union movement and the Labour Party was always one sided and that it has now become pointless. The relationship has in recent decades always in reality revolved around finance – the Trade Unions had it and the Labour Party lacked it and wanted it.

The relationship between the Trade Unions and the Labour Party was once important and only occasionally frosty at least until Blair (and successors) opened up a whole new relationship between Labour and the City. Despite what the trade Union leaders may think, the Labour Party last seriously (and erroneously) listened to the Trade Unions in the late 1960’s when it bottled it when they watered down the ‘In Place of Strife’ White Paper in the late 1960’s.

In Place of Strife (1968)
The White Paper would have brought in secret ballots before every strike; a cooling off period of 28 days before big strikes; collective bargaining with legally binding results; a new Industrial Relations Court and penal sanctions to force unions to comply. If Barbara Castle and her colleagues pushed their proposed legislation through then a degree of rationality would have been brought to the world of industrial relations. This would have been years before Mr’s Thatcher ever appeared on the scene and the worst undemocratic excesses of the old Trade Union movement would have been curbed.

Ever since then and despite the spin put on it by the Trade Unions, the Labour Leadership has basically walked the walk, talked the talk, taken the money and delivered little if anything to the Trade Union movement and its leaders. The Blair years should have in all seriousness killed off any Trade Union interest or involvement in prolonging a dead relationship with the Labour Party.

The fact that this has not happened, is largely down to the permanent presence of Labour Party members (especially at higher levels) and activists within the Trade Union movement, than any realistic chance of extracting any benefits for their members. Where once the Labour Party was the political wing of the Trade Unions, the relationship has now been reversed and the Trade Unions have pretty much been taken over and are largely run for the benefit of the Labour Party rather than their own members.

Obviously this convenient arrangement works well for the Labour Party who when in government quietly started most of the plans (i.e. The Passport Office and the Forensic Science Service to name but two) to make cost savings (at the expense of jobs) with minimal resistance from their card carrying stooges within the Trade Unions. Yet when the cost saving measures came to fruition under the Con Dems the reaction from the Labour dominated Trade Union leadership was entirely different.

In some parts of our country the Trade Unions are blatantly politically sectarian with leadership positions at certain levels being almost entirely dominated by Labour members. These Union officers are quite happy prevent hard working Plaid AM's from addressing rallies against job and pension cuts in Swansea and elsewhere.

It's time for Trade Unions to wise up and de-Labourise their senior officers, cease any financial contributions to the Labour Party and to concentrate on fighting for the interests of their members. I think that elected and salaried Trade Union officials should not be card carrying members of any political parties. I am still a Trade Unionist and still think that Trade Unions are important in the workplace, but, firmly believe that the links with the Labour Party need to be severed.

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