The Labour-union link: a question of transparency

Since the Cash-for-Access scandal in March this year, there has been a renewed emphasis on reforming party funding, leading to talks between the three major parties. One issue to arise as a result is the affiliation fees members of certain trade unions pay to the Labour Party. In light of this, we have looked at the joining forms of these affiliated trade unions, to see how explicitly they these fees and their relationship with Labour is described.

Summary
Of the 15 unions currently affiliated to Labour...
● just 1 (UNISON) mentions affiliating to the Labour Party.
● UNISON is also the only union to allow new members to choose whether to affiliate to Labour or not on their membership form.
● only 2 others (the Musicians’ Union and USDAW) mention the existence of a political fund at all (but do not mention the Labour party).
● 6 affiliated trade unions - including the largest (Unite) and third largest (GMB) - don’t mention the Labour Party at all anywhere on either the front page, “about us” or membership page of their website.
● 2 (the mining unions NUM and NACODS) do not publish any details about joining on their websites.

The 2010 Labour leadership election suggests that most trade union members do not strongly identify themselves with the Labour party:
● Turnout among Constituency Labour Party members was 72%; turnout among
trade union members was less than 9%.
● 15% of trade union members spoiled their ballots. In most cases this was due to
failing to assert on the ballot paper that they agreed with the aims and values of the
Labour Party.