Defend the Link’s model response to the Collins Review
The Party-Union Link – response to Collins Q&As
The link doesn’t need mending – it needs strengthening. Labour needs to better represent the interests of trade unionists and the party’s elected representatives need to be more representative of the population – more working class, fewer career politicians. The value of collective action and the role of trade unions in defending and improving living standards needs to be accepted once again.
Any changes to the relationship designed to strengthen the link with trade unionists should facilitate and stimulate greater involvement by levypayers without threatening the finances of the party. But the need for those changes should be justified and agreed.
1. What kind of relationship with the party do you think those individuals who choose to affiliate want or expect?
Trade union levy payers already vote overwhelmingly in every union whenever required for political funds established on an opt-out basis so that their collective voice will be heard in the political arena. There is nothing undemocratic about the current arrangements, where trade union representatives are accountable to their members through each union’s democratic procedures.
2. What rights should they receive? Should their rights differ from CLP members and if so how?
Affiliated trade unionists should at least continue to have the rights they have at the moment, which includes the right to help choose the party’s leaders and they should have the right to choose elected representatives too. Further than that affiliate members should also have more rights than those proposed for registered supporters who make no financial contribution.
Affiliated trade unions should also retain the right to influence policy through the collective representation of their trade unions.
3. What ideas do you have for how members of affiliated organisations might have a closer individual engagement with Labour and a real voice inside the party, particularly at the local level?
Labour and its representatives need to understand, support, promote and advocate trade unionism in parliament, in local councils and in government. Only by seeing Labour provide a voice for trade unions, and giving greater rights to levy payers such as in the selection of candidates will they be drawn into closer engagement.
4. How do we ensure that the collective voice of trade unions is still heard in the Labour Party?
Ensuring that collective affiliation is distinct from any form of individual membership. Ensuring that union collective representation and voting rights are sustainable and kept at the current level. Reintroducing democracy into the party’s policy making by ensuring we have a conference that is allowed to determine policies not just rubber stamp them
5. Once individual affiliated members have had an active choice about whether to be part of the Labour Party, do you believe that we would need to consider the consequences for other party structures including conference and the rules for electing leaders?
Individual affiliated members already have an active choice both as to whether to be affiliated members and to choose to be individual members additionally if they wish.
There is no case for any reduction in the current level of representation or voting rights which provide a collective voice for the trade unions who founded the party – they are rightly based on the total number of levy payers – who number fifteen times the individual membership of the party.
6. What views do you have about the practical timeframe for agreeing and implementing changes to affiliation and related issues?
There is no need for any change. There is therefore no hurry to make any changes that are made.
7. Do you have any other ideas you wish to contribute to this review about how to deepen the relationship between Labour and working people?
Labour policies and values as expressed by our public representatives, need to reflect a renewed commitment to working class representation if we want working class people to join and even vote for us in greater numbers.
We should also be encouraging unions that are not currently affiliated to affiliate to the party