it or not, we can't afford to ignore politics
When every decision from our basic pay to the funding
of the services we provide is decided by politicians,
UNISON members can't afford to ignore politics.
The very principle of public service is a political issue.
Rights and equality in the workplace is a political issue.
Health & Safety is a political issue. That's why early
trade unionists set up the Labour Party to get involved
in those political decisions in the first place.
And that's why UNISON from its inception has had two
political funds - one for general campaigning and one
affiliated to the Labour Party.
Members can choose to join one, both or neither fund.
Only the money from these levy payers are used for the
funds (See political funds explained).
As UNISON reviews its political funds, two activists
outline their views on the growing debate.
For UNISON's policies inside and outside
the Labour Party
by Matthew Crighton Branch Vice Chair and APF Officer
A political strategy is not an option for UNISON - it
is a necessity.
We cannot win better pay or defend conditions for our
members without winning the arguments in favour of public
services and against privatisation.
We need the public's hearts and minds and we need politicians
who are prepared to speak out. The unions helped create
the Labour Party to get governments and administrations
favourable to working people - not business.
New Labour is a disappointment - or worse. But remember,
it was union votes at Labour conference which supported
its birth. Where does this leave the APF - the political
fund through which UNISON affiliates to the Labour Party?
It has stimulated two parallel debates in the union.
The first is within the APF about structures and improving
how it works. The second is about both the APF and the
General Political Fund. Papers on both are available from
the branch office.
We need to use all tools available to fight PFI and PPP.
This means applying pressure both inside the Labour Party
and outside it. The APF therefore should be integrated
into the mainstream of the union. The APF is part of the
union and needs to be as accountable as any other part.
That is how we work in this branch and we have to make
sure it happens at all levels.
If trade unions had some part in the creation of New
Labour they also have a responsibility to get it to halt
the privatisation under PPP. I don't think we've tried
hard enough. There's a lot more we can do in the Labour
Lets start talking intensely to Labour MP's and MSP's
and let's tell them we will go for re-selection if they
don't support public services.
We're paying Labour to cut our services!
by Ian Hood Social Work Department Steward
Last year UNISON's Affiliated Political Fund gave £2
million to the Labour Party. In exchange we have been
given the Private Finance Initiative for every council
department, attacks on our jobs such as cuts in car allowances
and holidays, waiting lists for waiting lists in the NHS
and so on.
They have shifted so far to the right that even that
bunch of scoundrels, the Tories, can try and defend the
NHS from Tony Blair. It makes you wonder why we keep on
paying and what we are getting for our money.
If you had got such rotten service in any Princes Street
shop, you would have been asking for your money back!
That's why many of us want to bring in some democracy
into our political funds. Currently anyone can pay into
the Affiliated Political Fund (APF), the only body in
our union that can give money to political parties at
election time but only Labour Party members get to vote
on where the money goes. And, of course the money goes
straight into Millbank otherwise known as "old crony land".
Its hardly a surprise that they don't want anyone else
to have a say. Its our money and its time for some democracy.
Already unions like the Communication Workers Union and
the Fire Brigades Union are looking at funding alternative
candidates in elections.
They are considering whether to fund Socialist Alliance,
Scottish Socialist Party, Greens or even independents
where their policies fit the union's aims more than New
Labour's do. Many people aren't ready to go as far as
that yet but don't think Blair and Millburn should take
the unions for granted.
John Edmonds, leader of the GMB, said 'My union has supported
Labour candidates in every election since it was founded
more than 100 years ago. But no longer can the party take
the support of our members for granted.'
By threatening to take away the money, Edmonds hopes
to force a rethink on Labour. But whatever you think about
that, you must agree it should be up to the members to
decide how to spend their money, not a group of self elected
Our conference last year called for a debate on opening
up the political funds. Its high time it started. Or we
will all be left waiting for that non-existent hospital
UNISON's political funds explained
UNISON has two political funds and members can choose
to join one, both or none. Only members of the fund can
make decisions about the fund. Both funds were set up
by ballot of the membership when UNISON was formed.
The Affiliated Political Fund
This is by constitution affiliated to the Labour Party.
General union funds do not go to the Labour Party - the
only money used for campaigning in the Labour Party or
other organisation related to the Labour Party, is the
money paid by Affiliated Fund members.
The General Political Fund
This is used for general political campaigning on issues
like the campaign for the Scottish Parliament, UNISON
Scotland's Manifesto for Public Services, against PFI
and for a range of advertising initiatives. A court ruled
(under the old NALGO union) that the union would not be
able to campaign on 'political' issues without this fund.
This fund cannot be used for donations to any political
This Website www.unison-edinburgh.org.uk/
Affiliated Political Fund www.unison.org.uk/labourlin/labourlink.asp
General Political Fund www.unison.org.uk/about/gpf.asp
Progress report on review of the funds www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/12308.pdf