Miliband urges unions to make change
In a speech to union members at the TUC (trade union congress) in Bournemouth Ed Miliband urged unions to “have the courage to change” their staunch defiance against his proposed change to union funding of the labour party.
Miliband plans to abolish the automatic affiliation fee paid to labour by the 3 million trade union members, suggesting an alternate opt in scheme where they can choose to become full members of the party. He predicts this will encourage membership to grow up to and beyond 500,000 while also increasing activism. Chakra Umunna has supported his leader saying they must do it because it is “the right thing to do”.
Indeed, a YouGov survey, polling 2,500 members across 14 unions, suggests that only 45% would vote labour if the election was tomorrow, leaving over a million union members unsupportive of the party.
Furthermore, Labour politician Harriet Harman says this change in funding comes from a need to re-establish broken links with party members and to “re-evaluate and renew our relationship with members”.
However, the proposed changes will have obvious financial ramifications and cut heavily into the £7,965,000 generated from union funding.
In addition, union leaders are seeing this as a deliberate ploy from the labour party to limit the unions’ influence over party policy and candidate selection and deplore the idea. Dave Prentis of Unison claims Miliband is living in “cuckoo land” whilst the leader of GMB, Paul Kenny, has said they’ll cut annual fees paid to the labour party by about 1 million pounds.
During his speech, the labour leader was conscious not to alienate the unions and pledged to combat zero hour contracts, whilst encouraging the living wage to fit the minimum wage.
Miliband also served to remind the unions of their common enemy saying that Cameron sees trade unions as a “threat to our economy”.
Of the conservative party leader, Miliband said: “Six and a half million people in Britain who teach our children, who look after the sick, who care for the elderly, who build our homes, who keep our shops open morning, noon and night. They’re not the enemy within. They’re the people who make Britain what it is. How dare he? How dare he insult people, members of trades unions as he does? How dare he write off whole sections of our society?”
Having said he is “absolutely determined that this change will happen” it remains to be seen whether Miliband can finally inch Labour away from the influence of the trade unions.