Bakers’ Union plans to consult members on staying affiliated to Labour

Sienna Rodgers

The left-wing Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union (BFAWU) has today announced the launch of an upcoming membership consultation on whether the trade union should remain affiliated to the Labour Party.

In a statement by national president Ian Hodson, who has been critical of Keir Starmer, the union has declared that the “political direction” of the party under its new leadership has “given members cause for concern”.

Hodson cites the approach taken by Starmer during Covid, which the Labour leader describes as “constructive” but the BFAWU considers to be too supportive of the government amid “avoidable deaths, job losses and hardship”.

The statement also criticises “Labour’s apparent support for landlords” and “failure to stand up for tenants”, which touches on the leadership taking the view that a ‘cancel the rent’ policy would be “un-Labour”.

It refers to Labour abstentions on parliamentary votes, such as the covert human intelligence sources (criminal conduct) ‘spycops’ bill that led to 34 Labour MPs including several frontbenchers breaking the whip.

And it states that “there is something rotten at the heart of Labour” in light of the leaked report earlier this year, the European and Human Rights Commission report and the “downplayed” report on Labour Islamophobia.

“If that wasn’t bad enough, the move by the leadership to both suspend and then overturn an executive decision relating to former leader Jeremy Corbyn was a disgraceful act,” Hodson’s statement reads.

The BFAWU further contends that the evidence available points towards Labour intending to “end its financial relationship with trade unions and replace it with money from wealthy individuals and corporations”.

Concluding that “we feel further away from having a political voice than ever”, the union has resolved to conduct a consultation of members from January 2021, which will inform any decision on whether to leave the party.

BFAWU, which has represents workers in the food industry since 1847, backed Corbyn allies Rebecca Long-Bailey for the Labour leadership and Richard Burgon in the deputy leadership race earlier this year.

The new announcement follows the decision of Unite the Union to reduce its affiliation to Labour by 10%, or 50,000 affiliates, and use the withdrawn funding to “support and nurture the newer voices in our movement”.

After the executive council of Unite narrowly voted for the move in October, Len McCluskey said the money would instead help “very talented thinkers and energetic organisations out there who could do with our assistance”.

The Mirror reported on Thursday that senior figures in three left-wing unions – Unite, the Fire Brigades (FBU) and the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) – had said they would push to slash funding for Labour.

The unions have said they could cut their funding ahead of the party fighting a bumper set of elections in May 2021 if former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn does not have the party whip restored by Starmer.

The BFAWU currently has a seat on Labour’s ruling body, the national executive committee, which is taken up by Pauline McCarthy. The union won a seat for the first time ever on the body after a vote in 2015.

Members of the NEC’s 13-strong trade union section are nominated by affiliated trade unions and elected by their delegations at the UK Labour conference. Of the 12 unions affiliated to the party, nine are represented on the NEC.

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