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

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Hey Presto! 400,000 UNISON APF members lose Labour Party voting rights

As expected the Labour Party's Collins Review was endorsed at yesterday's special conference without an amendment in sight. It is certain that by 2020 union influence in the Labour Party will be much diminished but the review impacts on UNISON differently than all other affiliated unions. In his report Collins says that 'UNISON has offered its levy-paying members this sort of choice for some time, and its members who choose to pay into the affiliated section of that union's political fund have already consented to the payment of affiliation fees'. Therefore UNISON can continue to pay Labour £3 per year for the 400,000 APF levy payers (including those who joined before merger in 1993) - so unlike all other unions the requirement for UNISON members to 'opt in' within five years does not apply (decisions by GMB and Unite to commence large scale disaffiliation show the degree of capitulation by those unions to critics of the union link):

However - despite misleading hype about a 'closer relationship with trade unionists' - with immediate effect all UNISON APF levy payers will lose voting rights in Labour Party leadership elections. UNISON APF members contribute 6.5% of their subscriptions to Labour Link. This amounts to £9 per year for middle band payers and £17 per year for top band payers (money diverted from UNISON's general income). These are substantial commitments and should attract democratic rights for those members in addition to supporting the union's collective voice in the Labour Party.

APF members are now required to sign up as affiliated supporters of the Labour Party in order to retain current rights as well as gain new rights including attendance at local CLP's. Collins requires the Labour Party to put new systems in place to enable 'a new category of affiliated supporters to be established by the end of 2014'.

In line with a decision of the national Labour Link committee on 20 February 2014, UNISON delegates yesterday voted for the Collins Review. In order to protect the democratic rights of UNISON members and to retain/maximise the union's influence in the Labour Party (including in leadership elections) it must now become a priority of the Labour Link to sign up the 400,000 levy payers as affiliated supporters. Also, it should consider how those members might participate in the internal structures of UNISON Labour Link itself, something currently limited by its 'operational rules' (but not UNISON rules) to a few thousand individual Labour Party members.