Tuesday 17 April 2012

Are the unions breaking from Labour?

Reports in the Western Mail claim that Labour is hoodwinking union members into affiliating to the Labour Party. Ian Titherington from Cardiff UNISON claims that join forms are doctored after they've been filled in so that a part of each person's membership fees is handed over to the Labour Party. What a desperate situation, where officials have to resort to those lengths in order to get money, but no wonder when Labour politicians attack trade union members when they take action to defend the services they provide and their jobs and conditions. What this demonstrates is the crying need for a new party that would fight for ordinary working-class people - trade union members would enthusiastically support such an organisation.

How close are we to getting this organisation?

Well, last night the Pontyclun and Llantrisant branch of the Rail and Maritime Workers' Trade Union (RMT) voted to support the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) against Labour in the forthcoming Council election. Last week, the Cardiff Rail branch of the RMT, decided to support TUSC. (Only last year, Cardiff Rail voted to back Vaughan Gething in the Assembly elections.) The Railway workers' union was at the heart of the campaign to break with the Liberals and found a Labour Party, and branches in this area were crucial, in the Taff Vale dispute, to getting the organisation set up.

Leading Trade Unionists in Wales are standing under the TUSC banner. They include:

Les Woodward, National Convenor of the Remploy Factories for the GMB union.

Andrew Wilkes, an electrician and member of the UNITE union, who is a member of the Rank and File Executive Committee which organised wildcat strikes and protests across the UK last year.

Dave Bartlett, a member of the Wales Executive of the PCS civil servants' union.

Ronnie Job, Secretary of Swansea Trades Council.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is opposed to attempts to stop unions funding political parties. Comparing the donations of unions to the donations of the obscenely rich is ridiculous: unions have hundreds of thousands of members and are the most democratic organisations in Britain (not to say there couldn't be improvements). Unfortunately, Milliband has offered to support making ot even more difficult for unions to support a political challenge, by capping one-off trade union donations at the same level as the donations of billionairres. Thatcher's restrictions on unions funding parties should be scrapped - it should be for the members to decide how they build a political voice, not the capitalist parties.

1 comment:

  1. Ian Titherington, of Plaid Cymru, makes some serious claims of union officials abusing their positions to boost Labour Party union affiliations. How frequently this happens I couldn't comment on but I do know that as a steward, I've been asked for forms to change which political fund is paid into by UNISON members in my workplace who'd inadvertently ended up paying the affiliated fund to the labour Party. They've only found out when ballot forms come through for Labour Party positions. In the article in the Western Mail though, it is not what Plaid Cymru is calling for. As made clear in the post above, TUSC beleives it is vital that trade unions have a political voice. We argue, within our unions, that members' cash should be spent supporting parties and candidates that back us and fight for us, not on the Labour Party, whose leadership attack us every time we take action. As a UNISON member, I've taken official strike action to defend my pension twice in recent years; once on November 30 last year, against a Con-Dem government and once against the previous Labour government. Even when I was on strike against the Con-Dems, Labour wouldn't support us, despite the fact that my union gives £3million a year to the Labour Party.