Published on 1 Mar 2014 Sections ,

Labour cuts tie to unions in biggest change for a century

The Labour party has voted to change its century-old relationship with the unions and bring in a one-member, one-vote system that means everyone has to choose to become a Labour party member.

The party voted overwhelmingly to reform its link with the unions today, with 86 per cent in favour. Both Labour and union heavyweights backed the change. But critics of the reform say it was a “divisive internal struggle” that has cut off a vital funding source.

The changes

At the core of Labour leader Ed Miliband’s changes is a “one member, one vote” system for future party leadership elections where a simple party member’s vote has the same weight as an MP’s and union members vote as individuals, not in a bloc. Previously, members had a third of the vote, MPs had a third of the vote and unions controlled the final third.

It will also bring an end to the automatic enrolment of Union members into the Labour party: they’ll have to “double opt-in” when joining a union if they want to join the Labour party.

The pros

Voices across the Labour party and the unions approved the change, that Mr Miliband said would bring more diversity into the Labour party.

Former Labour leader Tony Blair has thrown his support behind the the “long overdue reform” and praised Mr Miliband’s “courage” in pushing them through.

View from the Unions:
Jennie Formby – Unite’s political director had this to say: “Anything that has lasted 100 years can’t all be wrong, but it probably could do with a health check. And so it is with the union-Labour link.
“We want the relationship between our members and Labour to be tenable. Unite’s own polling shows that only half our members vote Labour so it’s only right that our affiliation is more closely in step with actual support for the party.
“The hard work begins now. During the course of the five year transition proposed by Collins, Unite will be striving to persuade our members that there is a place for them in the Labour party.”

Critics

Dave Prentis, leader of Unison, said consultation over the reforms had been a “distraction”. He said: “Today is about putting all this behind us. An internal divisive argument that should never have happened.”

Bedford delegate Richard Johnson warned the reforms would place a “severe financial burden” on Labour because affiliation fees from unions would be cut. “We are already financially disadvantaged compared to the Tories. Why should we inflict a self imposed wound – we could lose 60 per cent of our affiliation.”

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