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

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Unions Together – you’re having a laugh!

In the immediate aftermath of Labour’s Falkirk crisis and Ed Miliband’s statement of intent to end collective union affiliation to the party, Keith Ewing identified the importance of leadership in defending the Union Labour link – ‘Trade union leaders are now under great pressure. They and they alone have the opportunity to stop Miliband’s breath-taking changes from happening, and the opportunity to defend the principle of collective affiliation’.

Almost two months on from the eye of the storm and it is becoming apparent that Labour’s affiliated unions are not rising to the challenge. Yesterday’s GMB announcement, far being a radical act, signalled a capitulation to the Labour leader’s agenda. What is inexplicable, given the importance of the issue, is a major union breaking ranks - in particular one led by the Chair of TULO (aka Unions Together) the co-ordinating body of the 15 affiliated unions. The same could be said of Unite's earlier Pavlovian acceptance of Miliband’s proposals. Although UNISON has criticised the process as a diversion, the union's stance on the main issues is unlikely to be clarified before the newly elected Labour Link national committee meets later in the year following the current biennial elections for regional seats.

For as long as it has existed, the British trade union movement has been weakened by disunity, opportunism and sectionalism. Every right wing move to erode the organisational/political power of trade unions or the socialist character of the Labour Party (from OMOV to Clause 4) has succeeded only because of the willingness of some union national leaderships to break ranks from the majority.

As yesterday’s Mirror rightly noted, these developments could have catastrophic effect on Labour’s prospects at the 2015 General Election. In the short term Miliband might win broadsheet plaudits for ridding Labour of so called ‘big money’ but millions of working people will pay the price if a Tory led Government stays in power until 2020 and completes its destruction of the NHS and the welfare state.