With the conclusion of the Unite General Secretary election, we now see another round of proposed trade union mergers. Unite is courting PCS (the civil service union). PCS is playing the field, its romance with Unison now over. Various other strange bedfellows are courting the teaching unions. None of these proposed marriages has any proper root; none has anything to do with romance or even being arranged. More like fixed up, shotgun.
There is an attempt under way to create a “left” centre for the trade unions, marginalising the TUC through having only four or five politically linked “super unions”. The political link is mainly about money and proposals by the ultra-left to run their own MPs for parliament.
British trade unions were formed around workplaces, trades and skills – political affiliation was irrelevant. Unlike on the Continent, they are not tied to membership of particular parties or religions. Their tie to Labour has always been their Achilles heel. When our trade unions maintain the Labour Party link but replace its candidates with “left” robots or candidates from ultra-left political organisations, they deny their root once again. The result will be further alienation of workers from their own creation – the trade unions.
It’s time to take “big is beautiful” and “business managerialism” out of the trade unions and get back to the real world: workplace organisation – being organised and using our collective strength. ■