Thursday 1 October 2009

Postal Workers Union to Ditch Labour?

Back on 10 September, the Camden New Journal reported that the Communication Workers Union (CWU) in London, currently locked in a dispute with the Royal Mail, was about to announce plans to launch a “consultative ballot” to ask members on whether it should continue funding the Labour Party.

The Guardian reported the following day that the CWU had tabled a
motion to the TUC Congress that read:

Congress recognises the lack of adequate representation at political level for the members of affiliated unions. Congress notes that New Labour, as currently constituted, is now failing to attract the support of our members and that its vote at the 2009 European Election reached an historic low. The present Government's policy of continuing privatisation, cuts in Government spending and failure to remove the anti-trade union laws is unlikely to change this in the near future.

Congress therefore calls on the General Council to convene, at the earliest opportunity, a conference of all affiliated unions to consider how to achieve effective political representation for our members.

One of those who presented the motion, Maria Exhall, denied it was "anti Labour" or a call for unions to disaffiliate, but added:
"It is about the trade union voice being heard in the run-up to the general election to make sure trade union priorities are heard – issues around privatisation, employment rights and anti-trade union laws."
Then at the end of September, the (sigh) Campaign for Yet Another New Workers Party reported that the consultative ballot of members of the CWU London Postal Division had voted by an overwhelming 98% of postal workers ito withdraw CWU funding from the Labour Party. That's a pretty clear indication of CWU members' feelings. The 'new workers party' people argue:
Instead of increasing the CWU's influence, continuing to prop up the Labour Party's finances has made the union look weak and encouraged the government to attack them. Most CWU members are disgusted that their union continues to fund the party which is trying to destroy them.
It's hard to disagree with this. According to the Electoral Commission, the CWU has given the Labour Party close to £ 1,762,000 since the start of 2007 and since 2001, a staggering £6.1 million. In return the CWU, which sponsors ex-postal worker and former CWU leader turned Home Secretary Alan Johnson, has had to battle continuously to prevent Labour from carrying on with its plan to part-privatise Royal Mail, enduring insults from Business Secretary Lord Mandelson and the government's rejection of a union offer to halt strike action.

CWU general secretary Billy Hayes is opposed to disaffiliation but with the government, the Royal Mail's only stakeholder, siding with the management against the union, why should CWU members' ignore their own interests by continuing to bankroll Labour's enormous debts? After all, it is not as though there isn't precedent: the union disaffiliated from Labour in 1927 after the general strike and were out of the party for 21 years.

It all depends on whether you still feel that the Labour Party still represents the concerns and interests of working people. My union, Unite, argues the following load of bollocks:
The hard left attack the link because they overlook and don't want to acknowledge what Labour actually delivers for trade unionists when in government. They will kick up a fuss over minor areas of difficulty [my emphasis] and ignore significant areas of achievement.
That's why I opted out of Unite's political fund ages ago. As far as I'm concerned a break with Labour by every union is long overdue.

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