Labour to approve changes to trade union voting

Labour leader Ed Miliband. Picture: PA
Labour leader Ed Miliband. Picture: PA
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PLANS to change the relationship between Labour and the trade unions are set to be approved at a special conference which will see reforms of the party’s leadership contest and membership rules.

In what was a major test of Ed Miliband’s leadership, party members and trade unions are set to approve his proposals to introduce a one member, one vote for the leader and end union members being automatically affiliated to the party.

The proposals, brought forward after allegations that Unite tried to fix the selection of a candidate for Falkirk by enrolling new members, will be voted on at a special conference tomorrow and are expected to hit membership numbers and party funds with the party losing the £3 affiliate fee from each union member potentially costing it millions.

The proposal has already led the GMB to slash its affiliation funding to Labour, and Unite will discuss its funding arrangements next week.

General secretary Len McCluskey said he suspected only 10 per cent of Unite’s one million members affiliated to Labour would opt to stay in if they were asked now.

Unite’s executive has endorsed a report on the reforms drawn up by former party and union official Lord Collins, but the vote wasn’t unanimous.

It has been estimated that 400,000 Unite members don’t vote Labour, a position Mr McCluskey has said is untenable.

He said that Unite was “honour bound” to promote a different relationship as a result of the reforms put forward by Mr Miliband.

“We have some difficult choices to make - but it doesn’t mean we could not make up any shortfall with donations.”

New members will be asked immediately if they want to affiliate, but there will be a five year period for consultation with existing union members.

While the proposals are expected to be overwhelmingly endorsed it is expected that London members will oppose them because of plans to introduce an open primary for the selection of a London mayor candidate.

Members of the Newham Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition will also stage a protest outside the conference, urging delegates not to “silence” trade unions.