I have been an active trade unionist for over 30 years (a branch secretary for 22 of them) but I must say that I get a little frustrated these days when I hear trade union leaders, many of whom utterly despised Labour when they were in government, seemingly getting caught in Labour’s opposition web.
Of course, I realise that trade unions and the Labour Party are historically joined at the hip but I have often felt that unions being bound up with one political party was and still is a big mistake. Personally, I think unions should be politically independent so that they can put their members first and that is particularly the case in the public sector where often ‘the bosses’ are a political party at a national or local government level.
But my point is this if you accept, as I do, that the last government was in part responsible for the mess that we are in economically why let them off the hook? My fear is that trade union leaders are doing just that, letting Labour off the hook. Trade union members are losing their jobs, especially in the public sector, in large numbers but the over-spending and over-borrowing of the last government is one of the reasons (the other being the greedy bankers of course) that those jobs are being lost. So for the unions to calmly slip back into Labour’s web and chant a similar song about the evils of the Coalition Governmnet is quite simply letting the membership down. The reason this happens is, of course, that many trade union leaders sadly seem to feel a loyalty to Labour that is stronger pull than that of their members.
I tested my theory by writing to the magazine of my own union saying something along the lines of this blog. The response I got from my General Secretary (who is always quoted in the media as a ‘left winger’ or a ‘thorn in Labour’s side’ or with some such label) was that ‘The national deficit was not caused by excessive public spending’. But that is my very point, it was excessive public spending (together with the greedy bankers) who put us all in the deep hole that we are now in. It’s no use union leaders wrapping themselves in a comfort blanket that says the last governmnet (and let me remind you again that it was universally unpopular with trade unionists) was OK really and we should not have hated it.
Sorry, but it is clear that jobs are being lost now in big numbers because the last government did not restrict spending and borrowing when all the signs were that a crash was on the way. Vince Cable and others warned them long before we hit the brick wall of economic reality but Labour did not listen. The jobs being lost now are, in part, a consequence of that Labour ‘deaf ear’ and our unions really need to wake up and smell the coffee.