All UNISON branches have until 13 November to send their comments in response to the consultation document (available online here).
1. The following are the comments from the Lambeth local government branch in response to the consultation questions in the document on the review of UNISON’s political funds, as agreed by our Branch Committee on 3 November 2009.
2. The election of the UK Government, local authorities and devolved administrations are vitally important to UNISON members. The failure of New Labour and the likely election of a Conservative Government will presage serious attacks upon our members. At the same time the Labour Party is failing to adopt policies which reflect our members’ interests. The Union therefore needs to adopt a more independent approach politically.
3. The Union makes it unnecessarily difficult for branches to access political fund resources – branches should have an automatic entitlement to some political fund resources each year. Members will not engage with UNISON Labour Link whilst they see the Labour Party pursuing policies which attack the interests of our members.
4. UNISON needs to change its culture to one that encourages campaigning away from a “top down” officer-led culture which seeks to restrict campaigning by branches. The history of the trade union movement should be central to trade union education.
5. The Union should implement Conference policy and monitor and report on the voting record of politicians associated with our Union. Members need to know whether the politicians who benefit by their association with our Union support our policies. Members in local branches should have a direct input into decisions about which politicians UNISON supports and works with.
6. Members should not be allocated into the Affiliated Political Fund unless they make a deliberate choice to pay into the Labour Party. Branches should have direct control over some of the General Political Fund which should be available to be spent in accordance with the decisions of quorate Branch or Branch Committee meetings. The Union has to face up to the fact that if the proportion of members choosing to pay into the Affiliated Fund falls much below the present proportion (one third) it will no longer be tenable to maintain that UNISON is affiliated to the Labour Party.
7. There should be a single-section political fund under the control of National Delegate Conference and the separate structures for each section of the fund should be abolished. The existing structures were designed, prior to vesting day in 1993, specifically to avoid transparency, accountability and engagement and cannot be reformed.