Transparency about the trade union-Labour link benefits everyone
Author: Zoe Stavri
Published on Oct 02, 2012
Recently, Unlock Democracy conducted some research into trade unions affiliated with the Labour Party, as the affiliation fees form a part of the debate surrounding reform of party funding.
Our research- reported in the Telegraph today- revealed that of the 15 trade unions affiliated with the Labour Party, only one passes the transparency test. Of all of these unions, only UNISON makes clear its link with Labour, and it is also the only union that allows potential members to ch on their membership form.
It’s important that trade unions are upfront about the Labour link in order to allow people to make informed decisions, but it’s not just members of unions who would benefit. For those concerned that greater transparency would impact heavily and negatively on funding of the Labour Party, it should be noted that UNISON, despite being the most transparent union, is also the the second largest contributor to Labour funds of the affiliated unions.
Providing the opportunity to opt in or out of Labour affiliation would also likely have an effect on engagement with the Labour Party for the better. At present, there is a high rate of spoilt ballots and a very low turnout among trade union members when they are given the opportunity to vote in Labour internal affairs. By allowing members to choose whether or not they affiliate with Labour, it’s likely we’d see greater levels of involvement from a trade union members who have been able to make the choice to identify with Labour.
The current state of affairs is far from ideal. But a little honesty and transparency would go a long way, with benefits for everyone.