Maria Exall

Democracy review: Don't forget the unions!

Maria Exall
Democracy review: Don't forget the unions!
Maria JPEG.jpg

THE LABOUR PARTY is a federal organisation, with the trade unions being by far the largest section of the affiliated structure. This gives the Party the opportunity to reach out to millions of working class people who are members of affiliated unions, their friends, neighbours, families and colleagues.

It facilitates the participation in the political process for many working class activists and is an important way for working class people to become representatives in local government and in Parliament. The link with the trade unions grounds the Party in working class concerns. It allows a direct input from the unions to policy making and eventually to the manifesto.

The nature of this federal structure means that there is a collective input to the Party through union delegates and delegations at all levels of the Party - nationally, regionally and locally in CLPs and on local government forums. The federal nature of the Party also encourages the principle of accountability, with delegates reporting back, with the ability to nominate and support candidates for election to party positions, parliamentary, and local government and other selections.

The Democracy Review is already at Phase One and in their submissions many unions are supporting democratic reforms to women’s and youth conferences to ensure the voices of grassroots CLP and trade union members are heard.

The unions’ position on reform of the women’s conference structures was agreed back in 2016. We want a proper democratic conference where the decision making process mirrors annual conference and there is a formal input into the policy making processes of the Party, proper resourcing, and accountability of any representatives elected at the conference.

The same principles apply to the youth conference with many unions supporting this. The principle of greater participation and involvement of black and Asian minority ethnic (BAME) members, including many BAME trade unionists, is also being supported.

Some of the positions of left Labour organisations on possible changes in the Review have implications for the nature of the union link. We need to work together to ensure we get the changes that enhance and extend democracy for all members.

The collective participation of the trade unions in the Party is not only right for a party of socialism, it is also a source of our electoral appeal. To get a Labour government we need to build from the formal involvement of the trade unions.


Communications Workers Union