Labour-union link: False alarm for the CWU

Submitted by Anon on 27 April, 2004 - 9:27

Radio and TV news on 20 April claimed that the Labour Party had begun an "investigation" into the Communication Workers' Union (CWU), because its Scotland no.2 branch has decided to support the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP).

CWU head office sources, however, say they have received no communication from the Labour Party about it, and the Labour Party press office told Solidarity on 21 April that it is "an internal matter for the CWU".

Derek Durkin, secretary of the branch at the heart of the story, told Solidarity that he too had heard nothing from the Labour Party.

"It is all fairly old news. We took the decision on 1 February, at our branch Annual General Meeting. It was in the period when the RMT [rail union] was being threatened with expulsion [for letting Scottish branches support the SSP].

"We decided to support the RMT and to say that we would also affiliate to the SSP to show solidarity with the RMT if they were expelled from the Labour Party. Then they were expelled from the Labour Party, of course, and we have made a donation of £500 to the SSP, because there was no affiliation procedure in place."

Derek Durkin says that his branch's support for the SSP is entirely in line with the union rule book.

The rule book says that CWU branches should affiliate to local Labour Parties - which the branch has done - but does not ban support for other parties.

The branch is now planning to establish a regular "surgery" with an SSP member of the Scottish Parliament, for its own members and other trade unionists.

The branch has received a request from CWU general secretary Billy Hayes that they send their branch rule book and the notice of their AGM to head office, but Derek Durkin told Solidarity that he has seen Billy Hayes this very week and has heard no more on the issue.

There was another row about a CWU branch backing non-Labour socialists back in 2000, when North/ North-West London CWU gave money to the campaigns of Ken Livingstone for Mayor and the London Socialist Alliance for the Greater London Authority.

Dave Norman, the right-wing national union treasurer at the time, responded by freezing the branch's funds.

In the end he had to back down. The funds were unfrozen - in return for the branch promising to write a formal letter to the London Socialist Alliance asking for the money back - and Norman was censured by a large majority vote at the union's 2001 conference.

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