Saturday, 14 March 2009
I was recently asked by a new activist to explain the Branch policy of working with the Labour party in Lambeth. I replied by stating that Unison nationally allowed and indeed encouraged, through its APF wing, the development of a working relationship with local Labour parties and that our position wasn't that the Branch had a policy of working closely with the Labour administration it was more to do with the APF members of the Branch taking an active interest and trying to shape the policies of Lambeth Labour.
I also explained that I was the one who re started this approach in 1995 when I became more involved with the Streatham constituency party. It was clear that until then Labour was hostile to Unison and the local party had produced manifestos that were clearly anti staff. So I decided, together with a number of other activists, to get back in there and try to influence decisions relating to us at that level. Not only that but I also help promoted the idea of more activists doing a lot of hard work for the party. At the end this, in my opinion, paid up as the party started producing manifestos and policies that were more staff friendly. We have always, however, been seen with a critical eye and we have always made sure that we did not compromise Trade Union principles. The reasonable relationship we currently have with the current administration has helped us have that line of communication when things go wrong and we have a clear mechanism through which our grievances can be heard. No one will claim that we get everything we want but we are doing better than we would have done if we did not have a 'constructive' relationship. So I will defend Lamb Politic on the basis that it is better to have a working relationship with a party that was created by the Trades Union movement than not have one. The fight to change more of their policies will continue but we will be more effective in achieving this from within.