UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Hands Off the Trade Union Labour Link

#lablink13 UNISON’s Labour Link section - which has the backing of one third of political fund levy payers in the union - is holding its annual forum this weekend. Yesterday General Secretary Dave Prentis in his keynote speech picked up on the media frenzy surrounding Falkirk and defended the legitimacy of union involvement in politics saying that unions 'are a vital part of the Labour Party and we have a perfect right to be involved in all parts of the Party whether that be nationally or at constituency level.’

The crisis engulfing Labour - following Unite’s counter-productive and unilateral attempt at finding short cuts to parliamentary influence - appears to be putting the trade union labour link in jeopardy as Ed Miliband seeks to detoxify the issue and save his own leadership by reviewing Labour's constitutional relationship with the 15 affiliated unions. He would be wise to remember the proverb about acting in haste and repenting at leisure.

Former Tribune editor Mark Seddon hits the nail on the head as to why it would be a mistake of historic proportions to break the link: ‘The trade unions keep Labour rooted in the real world. If their affiliations actually bought influence, they would surely have a lot more to show for them. Without union donations, Labour would be forced – in the absence of state funding – to rely on the corporate donors who fund the other main parties, and who have increasingly come to call the tune over public policy over the past two decades.

'Sadly, to our detriment and unlike in the rest of Europe, there is a near uniform hostility towards trades unions by both the media and political establishment. The increased pauperisation and privatisation of Britain would not be happening if the unions were stronger. They need to be.’