Feb 2008 - ASLEF backs labour - Not Government!

01 June 2013

I remember my pride in being a Labour Party member in 1997. The party had promised that if it was elected it would restore trade union rights to GCHQ. It was elected - and it immediately did exactly what it said it would. At last, I thought – democracy in action!

I’m still proud of being a member of the Labour Party: whatever its faults, it is still the ‘only show in town’ when it comes to representing working people. The Conservatives look after the rich, the Lib Dems look out for themselves and Labour looks to improve the lot of those who work for a living. The problem now is that there is a gulf between the government and the party – as in the case of trade union rights.

When Thatcher introduced her anti-union laws, the Opposition was incensed. When she abolished union rights at GCHQ, it was incandescent. When she took away the right to strike from prison officers, it resolved to reverse this decision. And it did.

But last month ‘justice’ minister Jack Straw announced his intention to re-impose the strike ban - because prisons are an ‘essential service’. This is the same phrase the right-wing French President is using in his efforts to ban rail strikes!

Our party and the government no longer appear to share the same basic values.

I’ve invited the prison officers’ union to put its case in this edition of the Journal (see page 13) – and it has done so with vigour - but also with regret. No trade unionists wants to criticise a Labour government. In fact, we wouldn’t if it would act like a Labour government.

Some of this anger with the government has led members to look again at their payment of the political lobby – because they think ASLEF sends money to support a government that lets them down. We do not. Most of our political fund is spent pursuing our claims and objectives in a public arena. I can assure you now that it’s not meekly handed over to the Labour Party at national level.

If we didn’t have an adequate political fund we would be prevented from a lot of the lobbying work we carry out to benefit our members. It is a sad conclusion that ASLEF’s political fund is spent in search of Labour values – but often that means the money doesn’t go to Labour.

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