Unions

Jim Pickard

The “macro” story on donations today (Electoral Commission figures for Q3 are out) is that the Tories received £5.27m in donations – more than the other 17 parties combined. Labour got just over £3m (mostly from unions) while the Lib Dems received £816,663.

A trawl through the Tory donors is interesting in terms of individual gifts:
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Jim Pickard

The Tories this week demanded the suspension of what they have described as a “slush fund” for the unions: the union modernisation fund.

The government and the unions see the fund differently; it is designed to support “innovative” projects which improve union efficiency. Read more

Jim Pickard

The GMB and Unison are denying that they are in talks to form a new super-union to rival Unite for scale and influence. Both have large public sector membership and there is obvious overlap.

The denials are strange because I thought I heard officials openly discussing the issue last night. Admittedly, it was late, and beer had been drunk. Even so. I’ve had a true story denied by a union before: it happens.

Jim Pickard

Derek Simpson, co-chief of Unite – Britain’s biggest union – told an audience today that the UK is heading towards a big Conservative victory in the general election.

“We are eight months away from a Tory government, probably with a landslide facing us and all the havoc they will wreak on our movement,” he said. “It is the time to wake up and smell the coffee….and minimise the loss.” Read more

Jim Pickard

I suspect this quote by Brendan Barber may appear in tomorrow’s headlines: Read more

Jim Pickard

Expectations are for a Gordon Brown “recovery” speech on Tuesday when he faces the TUC Conference in Liverpool.

For all the (slightly) better economic/financial data out there, there is still an obvious dichotomy that Britain faces. Do you define the downturn by GDP figures (the formal definition of recession beging two quarters of contraction) or on unemployment figures? Read more

Jim Pickard

Unite, Britain’s biggest union, has revealed a sharp drop in global membership after discovering a quarter of a million “ghosts” who did not in fact belong to the organisation.

The group has reported a fall in its membership from 1.95m to 1.64m, equivalent to a drop of 310,000, in its annual report published this week. It later clarified this as mainly a “tidying-up exercise” as officials excised the names of former members who had left or died years earlier. Read more

Jim Pickard

The GMB threatened last summer to end donations to 35 Labour MPs. But the warning has proved a damp squib with only five losing funding from the union.

The union, one of Britain’s “big three”, said in June last year that it would withdraw financial support from up to 35 MPs because they had failed to back traditional Labour policies.

The announcement was seen at the time as a sign of growing alienation of unions under Gordon Brown’s government.

But the GMB’s failure to implement the threat may raise scepticism over similar warnings.

Unison, the public sector union, said last week that it would cut its support for Labour unless the party stopped “biting the hand that feeds it”. Read more

Jim Pickard

You may remember back in March that Unite suspended three senior officials without explaining why it had done so. Britain’s biggest union hasn’t exactly been vocal since about what happened to the trio.

The suspension of Kevin Coyne, former north-west officer for the Amicus wing of Unite, was seen as an act of revenge after Coyne stood against Derek Simpson for the leadership of the group. (In the end he came third, behind Simpson and Jerry Hicks).  Read more

Jim Pickard

A last thought before I get on with my week’s holiday. (Alex still in Westminster of course.)

The unions are one of the power bases within the Labour movement which could credibly pull the rug from under Gordon Brown. Why: because they provide almost all of its funding these days. Read more

Jim Pickard

Kevin Coyne, north-west regional official for Unite, was today suspended by the union’s hierarchy. As were two other officials.

Coyne was one of four people who stood against Derek Simpson, head of the Amicus wing of Unite, in a recent leadership challenge. Simpson won – but with only 38 per cent of the vote (see past FT Westminster blogs such as this, this and this). Read more

Jim Pickard

Derek Simpson may have only got 38 per cent of votes in the Unite/Amicus leadership election but he is home and dry. (I’ve just been passed the results by one source and haven’t heard official confirmation yet).

Interestingly, the most left-wing candidate, Jerry Hicks, came a respectable second with 25 per cent. Read more