Sept 2008 - Political money funds more than labour

01 June 2013

WE’VE had quite a few members recently contacting the union to withdraw from contributing to ASLEF’s political fund. Personally, I think the political levy is well worth the money – especially as no member pays more than £6.84 a year to support it. It’s the price of a couple of pints.

But I equally accept that if you don’t want something, paying anything for it is extortionate. I also recognise that every member has the right to withdraw – and I’m very well aware of how much ASLEF members value their independence. But that doesn’t stop me urging members to contribute to the fund.

As a Labour man, it saddens me that many drivers said they want to withdraw because they think the government has lost its way (at least, that’s the politeversion!). It’s painful because I understand why people have grown disillusioned with this administration.

But our political contributions don’t support the government. The vast majority is spent on campaigns seeking the electrification of rail, encouragement of rail freight, arguing politically for cab improvement or lobbying on pensions. Because these are political activities, we would not be able to pursue them without a political fund. A great deal of the remainder is spent supporting individual MPs who share ASLEF’s core values.

Last April Jack Straw suggested that all union contributions should be handed over to Labour centrally so that the Party could decide the best way to spend it. ASLEF despatched a large flea into the ear of the Minister of Justice. Our members will spend their political fund in the way they wish – not how Mr Straw or anyone else finds it convenient.

Apart from the fund financing political lobbying on rail issues, it’s also used to support constituencies with MPs who support ASLEF policies or who have a special interest in transport. We don’t use your money to back politicians who show no sympathy for trade union values or interest in rail.

I have only to look back at the letters pages of the Journal over the past months to see evidence of our members’ discontent with the government. But I think the question to ask is ‘How can this be improved?’ rather than ‘How can we distance ourselves?’

If we ended up with no political fund, we would not only be isolated from the political process – we would also lack the means of getting back in. That would leave us a much weakened campaigning organisation. I hope you’ll agree it’s worth two pints a year to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Back »

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. You can change this and find out more by following this link