Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 1 February 2002

Free The Funds

AS TRADE union branches meet to discuss conference resolutions, the question of the relationship of the trade unions with New Labour will be discussed by many union members.

GLENN KELLY, Bromley UNISON branch secretary, explains about the campaign in public sector union UNISON to free the union's funds from the Labour Party.

UNISON MEMBERS are increasingly angry and frustrated at the Tory attacks on their jobs, conditions and the services they provide. But these attacks, privatisation, cuts and low pay, are being inflicted by New Labour.

That is why delegates voted at last year's UNISON annual conference to review why the union gives so much to the Labour Party, 1.5 million last year.

The trade unions together gave about 6 million to Labour for the general election campaign. This is at the same time as public sector workers were being sacked, like in Hackney council and NHS workers like those at Dudley hospitals were fighting privatisation.

That's the background to the fundamental break between the union and the Labour Party which delegates debated and decided on at last year's UNISON conference.

Stifling debate

The union national leadership denied delegates the right to debate stopping the funding. The leadership fought tooth and nail against the resolution which called for consultation with the branches and the regions about funding but the conference voted in favour.

Since then the leadership has been prevaricating on the consultation so they don't have to put the report or rule changes to this year's conference, which they were instructed to do.

In spite of that, a number of branches did start consulting their members but the leadership stopped it, in a deliberate attempt to flout the wishes of the membership.

The general secretary hoped he'd be baled out in the meantime by promises and assurances about privatisation and PFI which he got at the Labour Party conference. That has now backfired because the Labour government has just continued to slap UNISON around the face.

UNISON organised a national day of action in defence of public services on 4 December. In a deliberate attempt to put the unions down, Labour announced on that very day that they were handing over health services to BUPA, a private profit-making company. And they've recently announced further privatisation of health services.

During the conference debate I was accused of wanting to take the union out into the wilderness. But within weeks of the vote we saw the GMB cutting donations from Labour and in words at least threatening to stand candidates against them. Rail union RMT and the Fire Brigades Union also voted to review their links with Labour.

The UNISON leadership think they can avoid a debate by manoeuvring. But we are preparing for this year's conference from a stronger position. With each cut and each privatisation our position gets stronger.

How do we ensure we can change the rules come the June conference? It's been agreed through the UNISON United Left, which I chair, that we will campaign for the consultation to take place in the branches and regions between now and the conference.

Socialist Party members believe we should then argue that the union should create an open political fund, which has become known as the 'third fund'.

At the moment the union membership can choose to pay to Labour, through the affiliated political fund, or to the general political fund for general campaigning, or to none of them. We believe they should have another choice, to fund election candidates who support anti-cuts and anti-privatisation policies.

The union has set up a national working party of senior union officers but refused a branch representative on it. As I was the one who moved the resolution at last year's conference, it was proposed on the national executive to put me on this working party. But this was defeated.

The leadership's intention is apparently to present an interim report to this years' conference, that way avoiding the consultation and rule changes. They want to postpone it for another year, hoping Labour will turn up with something to rescue them.

We want branches to carry out the consultation, to organise debates and campaigns and report back nationally. Then at the June conference we'll be able to say how many branches have responded.

When the leadership consulted on the question of the branches' right to campaign, they produced a document in effect vetoing this right, on the basis of response from just 31 branches.

I'm confident that if we can have the debate on the conference floor, we'll win.

For model resolutions and campaign material, contact Free the Funds:

PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD, email:

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 1 February 2002:

'We're Fighting Back'

1,000 at Strike Rally

Enron scandal: End Bosses' Rule

Solidarity And A Bold Leadership Needed

WEF Meeting: War, Exploitation, Famine

Middle East conflict: Sharon Out To Crush Palestinians

Free The Funds


Home   |   The Socialist 1 February 2002   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:

Labour Party:

triangleNo fudge with the right wing

triangleCarlisle debate - socialism or social democracy?

triangleCorbyn's left must seize the advantage in Labour's civil war

triangle100 years since women won the vote

triangleLabour NHS rally reveals horrors but offers no way forward


triangleThreat of action defeats pay cut at Surrey council

triangleUnison national women's conference

triangleLocal government workers' reps reject 2% pay offer

triangleLeeds college pay protests


triangleWe can win the fight for the NHS

triangleTeachers strike again as anti-academy pressure mounts

triangleNHS: use the 3 February protests as a launch pad for a mass movement

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



Usdaw victory - Socialist Party member Amy Murphy wins presidential election


Tamil Solidarity

Tamil youth march for justice


Foreign Aid

Oxfam scandal: we need democratic aid and working class solidarity



Building support for Corbyn's anti-cuts policies in the local elections



What we saw: Tory-Blairite EU love-in



Rent doubles in a decade: cap rents, build council homes!


Public ownership

McDonnell says Labour would put services 'irreversibly' in workers' hands



We can win the fight for the NHS



NHS - build the fightback



Corbyn's left must seize the advantage in Labour's civil war



Haringey: now's our chance for a no-cuts council



90 feared dead after migrant boat capsizes



Capita in crisis: bring all outsourcers back in-house



Trump v NHS



NHS: use the 3 February protests as a launch pad for a mass movement

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0191 421 6230

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

February 2018

January 2018