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

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Collins Review - Hollowing out the Union Labour link

Yesterday the Labour Party NEC approved the recommendations of the Collins Review to reform Labour's internal constitution, which will now be put (non amendable) to a two hour long special conference on 1 March 2014. Much has been stated about the 15 affiliated unions retaining a 'collective affiliation' and how this has been the sine qua non for trade union agreement to the changes. But does this claim stand up to scrutiny and will it be credible in the medium term?

Of course, in the same way unions are affiliated to the TUC, unions in the short term will remain affiliated to the Labour Party. But the Collins Review states that 'after a transitional period of five years, affiliation fees shall only be accepted on behalf of levy payers who have consented to the payment of such fees' - an opting in arrangement. Thereafter a union's collective affiliation will be based solely on the numbers opted in.

Unlike affiliation to the TUC which is based on whole union membership, trade unions will affiliate to the Labour Party on the basis of a small minority of members. In UNISON fewer than one third of members currently opt in to the affiliated political fund and in September a reduction of 70,000 Labour Link contributors was announced. Some other large affiliates estimate 10% of union members will opt in to pay a political levy but this is based on wishful thinking.

On Sunday's Radio 4 Westminster Hour the Paul Kenny revealed that in a pilot scheme 20,000 GMB members had been offered free Labour Party membership but only 80 accepted the offer! We're all familiar with the adage that 'you can't be half pregnant'. But after 2019 will it be credible, democratic or even tenable for unions to be one tenth (or less) affiliated to Labour?