Bakers’ Union disaffiliates from Labour during 2021 party conference

Sienna Rodgers

The Bakers’ Union (BFAWU) has announced today that it has decided to disaffiliate from Labour during its annual party conference, accusing Keir Starmer of waging a “factional internal war” instead of focusing on “real change”.

In a statement, the union said: “We have a real crisis in the country and instead of leadership, the party’s leader chooses to divide the trade unions and the membership by proposing changes to the way elections for his successor will take place.

“We don’t see that as a political party with any expectations of winning an election. It’s just the leader trying to secure the right wing faction’s chosen successor.”

Reacting to the news, a Labour spokesperson said: “With Keir Starmer, the Labour Party is changing, to face the country, offer credible policies that will positively change the lives of working families, and to show that we are once again fit to govern.”

Momentum responded to BFAWU disaffiliation by saying: “The Bakers’ Union founded the Labour Party, and their decision to disaffiliate is a shocking consequence of Starmer’s failure to stand up for working people.”

The BFAWU has particularly drawn attention to the demand for setting a minimum wage of £15 per hour for all workers. Labour has called for £10, and this difference has been a key source of tension between the leadership and the unions.

Andy McDonald resigned from the shadow cabinet on Monday, saying it was because Starmer’s office told him to “argue against a national minimum wage of £15 an hour and against statutory sick pay at the living wage”.

The Bakers’ Union statement conclude: “The BFAWU will not be bullied by bosses or politicians. When you pick on one of us, you take on all of us. That’s what solidarity means.”

The small left-wing trade union lost its seat on Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) when conference union delegates voted for the Musicians’ Union to be included on the ruling body rather than BFAWU.

It is also understood that BFAWU president Ian Hodson had been warned by Labour that he faced possible expulsion because he was listed as a sponsor of the Labour Against the Witchhunt group, which the party proscribed.

Below is the full statement.

The decision taken by delegates who predominantly live in what’s regarded as Labour red wall seats shows how far the Labour Party has travelled away from the aims and hopes of working class organisations like ours.

The decision by the party to not engage with a union that levied its poorly paid members in 1902 to build a party that would bring about real change to their lives, is the culmination of a failure to deliver those changes during our 119 year relationship.

In 1902 we had thousands being fed by the king, while today the poor must feed themselves. We need footballers to campaign to ensure our schoolchildren get a hot meal. Workers in our sector, who keep the nation fed, are relying on charity and good will from family and friends to put food on their tables. They rely on help to feed their families, with 7.5% relying on food banks, according to our recent survey.

But instead of concentrating on these issues we have a factional internal war led by the leadership. We have a real crisis in the country and instead of leadership, the party’s leader chooses to divide the trade unions and the membership by proposing changes to the way elections for his successor will take place. We don’t see that as a political party with any expectations of winning an election. It’s just the leader trying to secure the right wing faction’s chosen successor.

The decision taken by our delegates doesn’t mean we are leaving the political scene, it means we will become more political and we will ensure our members’ political voice is heard as we did when we started the campaign for £10 per hour in 2014. Today we want to see £15 per hour for all workers, the abolition of zero hours contracts and ending discrimination of young people by dispensing with youth rates.

The BFAWU will not be bullied by bosses or politicians. When you pick on one of us you take on all of us. That’s what solidarity means.

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