Trade unions

Labour vs the unions

The Labour party is preparing for power and the unions are deciding what role they might play. Friend or foe? Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, has already incited their ire by refusing to commit to accepting independent pay-review body recommendations. Unite, the second-largest trade union, this week debated cutting ties with Labour and starting its opposition early. There is growing anxiety from the left that Starmer is abandoning party traditions in the pursuit of power The motion was, in the end, rejected. ‘The Labour party has decided we want to win,’ insisted one party figure. The union hit back. It insisted that Starmer has been ‘put on notice’ and that

Labour MP Jack Dromey dies, aged 73

Jack Dromey, who has died today aged 73, was a Labour MP, a trade unionist and a campaigner. He was extremely well-liked across the House of Commons: something that those who didn’t know him will have noticed immediately in the shocked tributes that have been pouring in from Westminster figures. He was a good MP, one with a clear set of political beliefs but who never let them stop him from working with those he disagreed with. He formed firm friendships with many MPs on the other side of the house, which is not something every member manages. It is a testament to the way he operated that it is

How Corbyn opponents are now turning to the trade unions

The Overton Window is a concept beloved particularly by the Left. It’s a theory about the range of political ideas that the public will accept, and the reason the Left has been particularly interested in this window in recent years is that there is a belief you can move it in a certain direction so that previously radical and frightening ideas become quite normal. Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters certainly believe that their party has succeeded in moving the Overton Window over the past few years, and that the old political adages about the public not wanting an overly left-wing party no longer apply. But within the party itself, there has also

Katy Balls

The latest Labour rift: Momentum vs the trade unions

In the beginning, it seemed as though the Labour civil war consisted of the Corbynistas vs the moderates. Now things aren’t so simple. The first day of Labour conference saw some ugly scenes in the conference floor. However, rather than the hard Left turning on the Blairites, it is a rift between two pro-Corbyn factions: Momentum vs the trade unions. Activists for the pro-Corbyn grassroots campaign group audibly booed the trade unions at several points on Sunday afternoon. Cries of ‘shame!’ were repeatedly heard across the floor. There were two points of disagreement – the democracy review and the priority ballots. Momentum activists were disappointed that the trade union choices

Labour has abandoned workers. Trade unions must avoid doing the same

I’m not a member of a trade union, but I should be. As a freelance journalist, my employment situation is precarious — yet it still wouldn’t occur to me to join the National Union of Journalists. My reasons are both personal and political, but mostly practical: the NUJ talks tough but, in the end, seldom achieves more than a few quid extra in your redundancy package. Still, the union movement seems bent on wooing me; at least that’s how I’m interpreting Gerard Coyne’s campaign to oust Len McCluskey as Unite’s general secretary. Coyne’s manifesto touches on expected areas — better value for membership dues; a Brexit focus on training and

Union leaders vow to help Corbyn fight Labour coup – ‘the Blairite virus is spreading again’

After a motion of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn passed at 172 votes to 40, a Labour leadership election looks on the cards. With Corbyn vowing to stand again, his opponents hope that — post-Brexit — a high enough proportion of the membership will choose to oust him. Yet in a sign that a lot of the grassroots support remains for Corbyn, the trade unions are preparing to stand by their man. After the vote results were announced on Tuesday, Len McCluskey told MPs that if they wish to contest a Labour leadership, it must be done ‘democratically through an election, not through resignations and pointless posturing’. He warned that ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters throughout the movement will

Why Jeremy Corbyn is the ‘out’ campaign’s secret weapon

Europe has opened up an unbridgeable chasm in the Conservative party. Labour remains, near as dammit, united. On the EU referendum, an opposition accustomed to defeat has a rare chance of victory. Yet when Jeremy Corbyn makes the case for staying in he speaks without conviction. Like a man called into work on his day off, his weary expression and dispirited voice tell you he would rather be somewhere else. Tory MPs, so divided that it is hard to see how they can stay in the same party, unite in laughing at him. The Labour leadership and most of the unions seem unaware that this is a fight over the

David Davis: Labour has to accept issues with trade unions monopolies

David Davis has one of the few Conservative opponents of the Trade Union Bill. The second reading of the bill is currently being debated in the Commons and the former home secretary popped up to clarify his position. After acknowledging that his public comments on the Bill had helped Labour — likening parts of it to something under General Franco’s Spanish dictatorship — Davis said the opposition had to accept that strikes can have a harmful impact on the public: ‘There is an issue when a monopoly – it doesn’t matter if it’s a private sector monopoly or public sector monopoly – goes on strike. The victim then is the public. It’s

Could a strike by Poles bring down Britain?

Britain’s Poles go on strike tomorrow to protest the widespread anti-Polish xenophobia across the country, which is literally everywhere. There are about one million Polish people in Great Britain, and many sectors of the economy depend on them, so in theory they could hold the country to ransom by striking. But they wont, and this is the beauty of open orders. Firstly, they won’t because so many eastern Europeans work in areas where they have so few working rights. That’s why big business likes them, and why many working-class natives resent their arrival. So if your Polish worker goes on strike, you can just sack him and hire a Romanian

Trade unions should foot the bill for any economic damage they cause

As of 6.30pm this evening, Londoners will (once again) suffer miserably at the hands of the transport unions, which have called another 24-hour strike on the Underground system in support of a demand for higher payments for operating a night-time service on parts of the network. Many commuters – forced onto overcrowded buses – will arrive late for work, while many more will be unable to work at all. Shops and restaurants will lose custom. When the last such strike took place, on 15-16 July, the Federation of Small Businesses estimated the cost at around £300 million. With more tourists in the capital, the cost of this next strike is likely to

The Tube is an essential service and should be protected from strikes

Today, London feels on edge. For the second month in a row, militant transport unions will shut down the Underground system at 6:30pm, leaving Londoners to face seemingly endless queues for buses, inflated Uber prices and an army of occasional cyclists bearing down on them. The estimated cost of a 24-hour strike (this time, over the plans for a 24-hour Tube service) is some £50 million. It’s time for the government to step in. Currently, the fire service, among others, is regarded as an ‘essential service’, which means a minimum service has to be provided during periods of industrial action while full-scale walkouts are illegal. It is time for the Tube –

Trade unionists are putting themselves on the path to obscurity

Jeremy Corbyn is the trade unions’ favourite candidate for Labour leader. From the more militant folks at Unite to the moderates at Unison, the comrades are buying into ‘Jez we can’. But this is not only about electing their man, some trade unionists are on a greater mission to stamp out to Blairite ‘virus’ from the party. The author of that controversial remark, Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, defended it on the Today programme this morning (quotes via PoliticsHome): ‘I stand by what I said yesterday, and the virus that I’m referring to is the policies and the approach of the likes of Peter Mandelson, who seem to continually push these

Ed Miliband’s union bosses would change Britain for the worse

Trade unions have an important role in any decent society, but their stranglehold on the Labour Party is something we must fight against. I will never forget walking the streets of Poland back in 1981, when martial law was in force, and there were armed soldiers on almost every street corner. There it was a trade union, Solidarity, which brought authoritarian Communism to its knees. In the UK Margaret Thatcher recognised the importance of trade unions in society. Indeed one of her first roles in politics was as chairman of Dartford Conservative Trade Unionists. But the battle in British politics today is nothing to do with the work done by

Another union backs Corbyn as the antidote to a Blairite ‘virus’

Jeremy Corbyn is stormin’ his way through the trade unions affiliated to the Labour party. The Communication Workers’ Union has announced it backs him in the leadership contest, not because it thinks he can win, but because it thinks his victory would drive the Blairites out of the party, and would therefore serve its purpose. This is what the union’s general secretary Dave Ward had to say about the decision: ‘We think that the Labour party needs to be shaken up, and we think that we need to loosen the grip of the Blairite wing of the party, people like Mandelson who in our view have taken this party far

How the trade unions make it more difficult for Labour to win back Ukip voters

Do unions like Unite want Labour to win the next election? A fair few people, including a number of Labourites, have been asking this question since the union announced its backing for Jeremy Corbyn at the weekend, but it’s a something that those involved in the election campaign were asking as polling day approached, too, for slightly different reasons. The party found that it had a problem with Ukip during the election campaign – and some wise figures like John Healey had been urging the leadership to get to grips with Nigel Farage’s party long before election chiefs actually did do anything. While there is now a general acceptance among

Labour must understand that Unite is its enemy

Imagine you are a Labour MP or a trade union official surveying Britain this week. The following points will strike you: Labour has just lost an election it could have won, in part because Unite helped impose a useless leader on it in Ed Miliband and an equally incoherent programme, which failed to convince millions of voters to rid themselves of a mediocre Tory government. Poverty and inequality are everywhere growing in part because of the shocking failure of the trade union movement to come to the aid of the new working class. In the care, hospitality and private security industries and in the shopping, leisure and call centres that

Len McCluskey and the trade unions need Labour as much as the party needs them

Can Labour’s links with trade unions survive the leadership contest? This morning, Harriet Harman will outline in a speech at Labour HQ how the new party leader will be elected — and she will say the unions won’t be deciding who it is: ‘We will have strict rules to ensure there is a level playing field for each one of the candidates. Last time the unions communicated directly with many of their members, sending them ballot papers with accompanying material only mentioning one candidate. There will be none of that this time. The Electoral Reform Society will send out individual ballot papers to each member of the electorate.’ ‘The winner

Today’s strikes in London highlight why we need trade union reforms

Londoners were not a happy bunch this morning. Aside from the cold, wet weather, two-thirds of the capital’s buses were not running — thanks to a strike arranged by trade union Unite. Bus drivers are protesting over pay, as they believe the lack of a collective deal across all bus operators is unfair. Currently, there are 80-odd different pay rates, as this Unite infographic shows: Time to end the chaos on London’s bus network – one rate for all: — Unite the union (@unitetheunion) January 13, 2015 27,000 striking bus drivers causing traffic and commuting chaos is annoying — but this strike comes at a sensitive time as the Tories

Five reasons why winning in May won’t be that much better than losing

Defeat in May would be dire for either Cameron or Miliband. It would end their political career in ignominious failure. But winning would not be much better: they would be the weakest PM in living memory. Here’s why it won’t be easy for either of them: Miliband would be a prisoner of his own MPs: The best that both Labour and the Tories can hope for is the narrowest of outright victories. The 21 seat majority that John Major ground out in 1992 is, probably, beyond either of them. Miliband would then find himself having to steer swingeing cuts past a party that is simply not prepared for them. It

Blame it on the bankers’ boogie

Vince Cable and Michael Fallon, ministers responsible for the Royal Mail sell-off, have been summoned for another select committee grilling after Easter. Meanwhile, Labour’s irritatingly smug business spokesman Chuka Umunna continues to score points by claiming that last October’s flotation was ‘botched’, costing taxpayers a notional £750 million as the shares leapt from the issue price of 330 pence to 455 pence on the first day, and much more since as they rocketed on upwards. The truth is that the ministerial duo were right to be super-cautious about pricing a privatisation that had been thwarted for so long by union subversion, for which public enthusiasm was uncertain, and in which