News reaches the Voice from Unlock Democracy, who have been carrying out investigations into the practices of the 15 unions currently affiliated to the Labour party. The research shows that 14 out of 15 trade unions affiliated to the Labour Party fail to explain to their prospective new members about affiliation and inform them that they have a legal right to opt out on their membership forms and website.
The top lines from the research are as follows:
- Just 1 union (UNISON) mentions affiliating to the Labour Party.
- UNISON is also the only union to allow new members to choose whether to affiliate to Labour or not on their membership form.
- Only 2 others (the Musicians’ Union and USDAW) mention the existence of a political fund at all (but do not mention the Labour party).
- 6 affiliated trade unions – including the largest (Unite) and third largest (GMB) – don’t mention the Labour Party at all anywhere on either the front page, “about us” or membership page of their website.
Unlock Democracy’s Director Peter Facey says of the research:
Talks over party funding are at a crucial stage and the last talks collapsed over disagreement about how trade unions should be treated. It is time Labour stopped being so defensive and looked at this as an opportunity not just to take big money out of politics but to actually strengthen its links with trade union members.
The fundamental issue is ensuring that trade union members are properly informed about the exact relationship between their union and the Labour Party. It is clear from this research that most trade unions are less than explicit about affiliation to new recruits.
The good news is that the second biggest contributor to Labour’s coffers – UNISON – provides a model example about how this can be improved. If trade unions want to defend their links with Labour, it is high time they stopped being so shy about it in practice.
You can read more about the findings from the research here (pdf).
* Nick Thornsby is Thursday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs here.