More than a hundred years ago, it was trade unions including ASLEF who established the Labour Party to support Parliamentary candidates who would speak up for the needs of working people. That strong link between the unions and the Labour Party has remained ever since with trade unionists having a prominent place at the heart of the Party, and are represented at every level.
The Labour Representation Committee - effectively what is now the Parliamentary Labour Party - was formed in 1906 under the leadership of Keir Hardie and many of its members were trade union MPs. The group of Labour MPs remained small until shortly before the First World War when the mining MPs, who were more than 40 strong, switched their affiliation from the Liberals to Labour. But wasn’t until 1924 that the Labour Party formed its first government and then, as now, the trade unions have been the backbone of the party. Without trade unionism, the Labour Party would not exist.
Continued trade union involvement in the Party ensures that the needs and aspirations of ordinary working people remain at the heart of the Party’s policy programme. More than a century of history
A century of shared history has inevitably seen occasional ups and downs - as in all relationships. But ultimately, the unions and the Party have stuck together because all realise that together we are stronger.
ASLEF in Parliament
ASLEF has an active group of Labour MPs who have put down questions and parliamentary motions on key issues and attended lobbies and meetings organised by the union. The group is chaired by Luton North MP Kelvin Hopkins and supportive MPs include David Hamilton (Midlothian), Lindsay Roy (Glenrothes), Cathie Jamieson (Kilmarnock and Louden) John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead), Dave Anderson (Blaydon), Rosie Winterton (Doncaster Central) and Ian Lavery (Wansbeck).
This gives us a profile in parliament and means that campaigns such as the East Coast Mainline and Freight on Rail are raised across the Parliamentary and political landscape.
The union’s senior officials also regularly give evidence to Parliamentary Committees. Most recently Mick Whelan spoke at the Transport Select Committee inquiry on the 19th June 2012 which looked into the Government's vision for the railways in 2020 and scope for reform of the franchising system.
The evidence can be seen here at around 1h 43mins.
On the 9th December 2009 ASLEF gave evidence during the Committee’s inquiry on the subject of ‘London Underground and the public - private partnership agreements.’
The evidence can be seen here at around 58 minutes
On October 28th ASLEF representatives gave evidence to the Committee’s inquiry into ‘Priorities for Investment in the Railways.’
The evidence can be seen here at 1:04:20:
Real change for working people
Labour’s key achievement have made a real difference to union members, and the Party benefits from having a direct connection to working people through the trade unions. Labour in government has delivered:
- trade union recognition
- health and safety legislation
- paid maternity, paternity and adoptive leave
- protection for occupational pensions
- the National Minimum Wage.
TULO, the Trade Union and Labour Party Liaison Organisation was established in 1994 following a motion to the Labour Party's Annual Conference. It is the campaigning voice of the 15 trade unions who affiliate to the Labour Party. TULO co-ordinates Trade Union support for the Labour Party at elections and also acts as a channel of communication between the Part and the Unions. For more information about TULO visit their website