GMB cuts Labour funding – but is there an alternative?

The Beeb reports:

The GMB union has voted to cut funding to a third of the 108 Labour MPs it sponsors, saying they have failed to back its policies.

It also said it would ask its 600,000 members if they wanted to reduce the £1.2m funding for the Labour Party.

The union discussed its links with Labour at its conference in Plymouth.

General secretary Paul Kenny said he had been “weighing” up the performance of MPs, who could lose up to £20,000 a year if funding is cut.

The union was no longer prepared to finance MPs who treated workers with “contempt”, he added.

‘Performance-related pay’

The vote came as fire-fighters, prison officers, teachers, civil servants and other public sector workers joined a TUC rally in Westminster to press the government to make sure their pay keeps up with the rising cost of living.

Outlining his members’ grievances, Mr Kenny said those targeted would be MPs who had failed to support union policies, had not responded to requests for help or had not engaged with local branches.

“The intention is not to cut funding overall; it’s to divert it to areas where frankly people are doing a job of work,” he told the BBC.

“The government is very keen on testing for everybody, performance-related pay, and we’ve applied in the GMB over the last 12 months exactly the same principle.

“We’ve examined the records of MPs both at local level and national level and many are doing a fantastic job, but there are a number who seem at times to be embarrassed by their relationship with the union.

“We don’t want to embarrass them by giving them union money.”

‘Frustration’

Instead the GMB plans to put more cash into encouraging its members to take more control over constituency parties so the union has more influence over party policies.

Mr Kenny also warned the union could scale down the size of its funding for Labour – although it has ruled out of order a motion urging the GMB to disaffiliate from Labour.

He said he expected there would be “huge anger” among delegates over policies on taxation, public sector pay, executive bonuses, social housing and other issues.

One motion called for the GMB to give an ultimatum as to whether to give continued support to Labour because of unhappiness about the so-called Warwick Agreement – the deal reached before the last election between unions and the party – has not be implemented in full.

Another motion said: “The congress notes with disgust the continuing failure of the Labour Government to adequately represent the interests of working people.”

The Labour Party has become more reliant on union funds as donations from individuals have dropped following the cash-for-honours row and falling opinion poll ratings.

The TUC rally comes after a survey of 2,100 adults suggested that most believe it is unfair for public sector workers to receive lower wage increases than staff in private firms.

In the past, Kenny has suggested that the GMB fund Plaid in Wales and the SNP in Scotland if there’s no change of course within Labour. But what of an alternative political party in England? The GMB, and the labour movement, is getting overtures from the Green Party:

“We need each other,” Green MEP tells trade unionists
9th Jun 2008

Caroline Lucas speech aims to unite environmental and labour movements

Green politics must involve trade unions to ensure that the response to climate change advances social justice and equality, Caroline Lucas MEP will tell activists at the GMB union’s annual congress in Plymouth today.

In a discussion on ‘climate change and jobs,’ Dr Lucas will argue that the labour and environmental movements need to work together to acheive their goals, and that the Green Party’s role is to unite the two.

Commenting ahead of the session, Dr Lucas said:

“More secure, fulfilling jobs; stronger communities; social justice. That’s the Green response to climate change. Panic, blame, and regressive taxes: that’s Brown.

“Not only is the Green response more desirable, it’s also the only one that can succeed. A zero-carbon world and a socially just one will happen together, or not at all.

“To acheive our goals, the labour movement and the environmental movement must realise that we need each other. The Green Party, with roots in both, is the ideal matchmaker.

“We need to work together to demand support for the renewables industry that could provide thousands of new, highly-skilled and secure jobs but is being neglected by government. We need to work together to make a warm, energy efficient home a right, and abolish fuel poverty. And we need to work together for an economy that exists for people, not the other way round.”

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One Response to “GMB cuts Labour funding – but is there an alternative?”

  1. a very public sociologist Says:

    Unions insisting the Labour MPs they fund actually stand up for union-friendly policies is a step in the right direction, but there’s no getting away from the fact that they should be playing a more pro-active role when it comes to political representation. Unfortunately in the setting up of the Labour party most union leaders had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the new formation. It looks like history might be about to repeat itself, but let’s hope this time it’s neither as tragedy or farce.


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