Mirror columnist Kevin Maguire has made a very interesting contribution to the debate about the link between the Labour Party and the trade unions. His article today makes some very telling points about the reforms being carried out by Ed Miliband and what the unions and their members actually get out of the link with Labour - which is not very much at all.
Maguire's columns regularly make some very good comments on the situation facing working class people in the face of Tory austerity - he also prominently supported the Youth Fight for Jobs re-creation of the Jarrow March in 2011.
He outlines the situation facing the unions today with regard to the relations with the Labour Party: "Rather than enduring a thousand indignities, organised labour should take its money and people and abandon institutional links with the party it fathered, nurtured, saved and continues to sustain".
"However Ed Miliband dresses up these far reaching reforms, which were triggered by his blind panic over the selection of a parliamentary candidate in Falkirk, the truth is he wants union cash but not the unions".
Many Unison members, as well as many members of other affiliated trade unions have been calling for an end to the Labour link for some time. As we have pointed out on many occasions - it is an abusive relationship where we hand over millions of pounds in affiliation fees only for Labour to attack us. Whilst in government Labour did little or nothing for the trade unions, including failing to scrap Tory anti-union laws.
Any thought that Labour would move to the left in opposition was quickly dispelled. In the dispute in the Falkirk constituency Labour called in the police to investigate Unite for fighting for trade union policies within the party, opening the way for Ineos to attack the Unite convenor which had a negative effect on the outcome of the struggle at Grangemouth.
Labour is as committed to austerity as the Tories. Much fuss has been made about the announcement that Labour will push up the top rate of income tax from 45% to 50%; however as the pro-capitalist journal the Economist points out: "The 50% rate is a political sop, thrown to Labour's electoral base by Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, to make up for the austerity measures that he has also, rather more vaguely, promised, many of which will hit poorer Britons".
Maguire makes the excellent point later in his column with regard to the cuts in the Environmental Agency following the recent floods. He states:
"At a private meeting, GMB union reps urged Labour frontbencher Maria Eagle to promise she'd halt Environment Agency job cuts blamed for flooding. She wouldn't. Labour attacks on the Con-Dems are a wet blanket when the party just sticks a red rosette on austerity".
Maguire talks about the leaderships of Unison, GMB and Unite not being happy with the relationship. This is very timely given that these three unions represent millions of workers, many of whom work for local authorities. For example here in Coventry which is Labour controlled we face the prospect in the coming weeks of Labour councils setting budgets which will see union members lose their jobs and vital services in working class areas slashed. Damn right the unions aren't getting value for money!
However particularly in Unison the pro-Labour leadership have attempted to stop any debate or discussion about the Labour link, including witch-hunting Socialist Party members who amongst other things have called for a break with Labour. Too many times has the Unison leadership put the interests of the Labour Party before its own membership.
Activists in the affiliated unions will have to continue to push hard and build further organised support within the workplaces to break the link.
The Socialist Party has consistently called for a break with the link with Labour. We welcome Kevin Maguire's article as a contribution to the debate in the trade union movement and the working class more generally about the future of working class representation.
However, in itself the breaking of the union - Labour link will not be enough. We believe what is urgently needed is the formation of a party for working class people and trade unionists, an independent political voice that will oppose all austerity, that will put the needs of the 99% above those of the 1%. A party that will restate and articulate the need for socialist policies to fight capitalism.
With that aim, we are a key part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, TUSC, which has the support of the RMT union and many other leading trade unionists from PCS, POA, FBU, Unison, Unite, CWU, GMB and many other unions. Already we know there will be at least 400 TUSC candidates across the country, including 18 here in Coventry where we will be standing in all 18 seats. TUSC and the Socialist Party will be the only anti-austerity option for voters in May. We encourage anyone who is sick of the three establishment parties to contact us and to help us with the tasks ahead.