What is Ed Miliband thinking?

10 July 2013 By Roger Jeary Severing ties with the trade union movement will not benefit the Labour Party, and will only make Ed Miliband look more right wing.

Commentary icon10 Jul 2013|Comment

10 July 2013

By Roger Jeary

Severing ties with the trade union movement will not benefit the Labour Party, and will only make Ed Miliband look more right wing.

What is Mr Miliband thinking of? His pronouncements on union affiliation and future relationships with union members are nothing short of a reiteration of the Thatcher attacks during the 1980’s. Then it was argued that the opt out of the political levy should be changed to an opt in. Thatcher’s plan was to reduce the income of the party and the links to the unions. How can Miliband take the same line? Thatcher drew back from that plan and settled for the renewal of political funds every 10 years by a democratic vote of union members. To their shame Labour has never repealed that piece of legislation and trade union members have consistently voted by large majorities to retain these funds for political activities.

And can somebody remind the media and Mr Miliband that no union member opts in to pay an individual affiliation fee to the Labour Party. They opt in to contribute to their union’s political fund and it is the trade union members through their democratic processes who decide how that fund should be spent.

Labour’s link to the trade unions is not just about money although the current party machine seems to think that unions are OK when funds for elections are needed and a political embarrassment when they express or pursue their democratic policies. The removal of democratic policy making in the party was introduced to ensure the concentration of power at the centre and designed to neuter the impact of trade union affiliates, not to mention local members and branches. If the current leadership are intent on further severing the link to trade unions, then Mr Miliband will not see the increase in the party membership that he wants but a decrease, as long-standing members who joined because of the trade union link will no longer see the point of being a paying member.

Len McCluskey is quite right when he says that changing the opt out arrangement for trade union members will need legislation and that will only come about through Labour joining with Tories to secure that change. If that happens then the final morphing of Labour into a pale pink shadow of the Tory one nation club will be complete, and working class voters will once again have to search for a new political vehicle to provide a voice in parliament.

Roger Jeary

Roger Jeary Roger Jeary retired from Unite in January 2012 after 33 year’s service as a negotiating officer and Director of Research. Roger worked in Northern Ireland, Manchester and London as an official of the union starting with ASTMS and then MSF and AMICUS before the final merger to Unite. In 2004 he was appointed Director of Research of Amicus and subsequently took on that role for Unite in 2007. Roger is a member of the Institute’s Publications Sub Committee. Currently Roger is a Trustee Director of FairPensions, an independent member of the ACAS Panel of Arbitrators, sits on the Advisory Panel of the IPA and is a member of the Manufacturing Policy Panel of the Institute of Engineering & Technology (IET).