We face an enormous struggle to get rid of the present lousy administration in less than 18 months time so the last thing the Labour movement needs is to spend precious time navel gazing. Sadly we are committed to doing just that. After the knee jerk reaction of some in our party to the issues around Falkirk and the admission by our leader that many in our party have wanted to change the relationship between the party and its founding body, the trade union movement, we are left facing a period of review and a costly, time consuming conference at a time when we should all be pounding the streets to win in European and local elections as a stepping stone to victory in 2015.
But we are where we are we are. I make no bones of being very proud of trade unions and acknowledging the fact that without trade union help over decades I would never have had the confidence, the nous nor the will to be a member of parliament. The route to Westminster has never been an easy one for working class people but the unions, over more than a century, have been the key driver in negotiating that rocky road.
So I am clear; whatever the vested interests on both sides of this increasingly fractious debate feel we must not let ourselves lose sight of the real importance of our link. Finance is the one area that most people would think of first if this relationship falls apart but the real strength of the unions is that, unlike many in the Westminster goldfish bowl, they still have their feet squarely in the real world of hard work, hard times and hard choices. It would be foolish in the extreme to lose that link.
I am delighted by the approach taken to this challenge by the Trade Union group of Labour MPs. Like myself, most questioned the need for such a diversion at this critical time, but, like trade unionists everywhere we haven’t allowed ourselves to be paralysed rather we have chosen to engage in the debate recognising our limited success re recent years and accepting our responsibility to our party, our trade union comrades and the people of our nation. We will engage with the Collins review and we want to see a better programme of activity in parliament with a greater level of both activity and engagement between MPs and trade unions. To that end we launched a new Trade Union group charter at party conference and we hope that it will be welcomed and embraced on all sides as part of the overall contribution to seeing our link not just reformed but revitalised as well.
As part of that process I would urge all who have our parties interest at heart to read the charter below, discuss it with comrades both informally and within the party structures and feed back to us comments, concerns or criticisms. We believe that a reformed, strengthened link is of mutual benefit to us all as we face the challenges ahead. This charter is our contribution to that along with our commitment and activism to see it working in practice in all our interests.
Trade Union Charter
The Trade Union Group of Labour MPs understands and shares the aims and aspirations of the millions of members of the Trade Union movement, in solidarity and the strength of the collective and we will work with the trade unions to ensure that their voice is heard loud and clear using all available democratic parliamentary powers regardless of which party is in government.
We will promote and defend the right of TUC affiliated trade unions to be key players in the Labour party at local, regional and National levels working closely with them to ensure that our Party promotes workers rights in our manifesto’s and implements them when in power
We will seek to achieve common goals for trade unionists and party members by positively working together with the party and trade union leaderships and fellow MPs to develop a modern, mature and two way relationship based on common respect and regular engagement with a clear and concise understanding of each other’s political and industrial Roles.
We will positively promote the candidacy of trade union members to positions of power and influence in our party, understanding clearly the necessity for transparency at all times. Our joint commitments to equality and diversity should be of Paramount importance whist seeking to deliver and develop this agenda, we will work with the party and the unions to develop educational and personal development programmes to maximise the potential of trade union candidates.
We will work with trade unions to encourage workers to join trade unions and seek the support of the unions in encouraging their members to join our party in order to ensure that it is once more seen as the party of labour and that we reflect the desires and ambitions of the hard working people in this country
We will support workers in struggle and engage with all parties to both prevent and resolve disputes that may arise with employers and governments.