Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I don't want to join the Labour Party

In April 2007 I joined Fujitsu-Siemens Computers, a company owned 50-50 by Fujitsu and Siemens (surprise, surprise). Last year, Siemens sold its 50% stake to Fujitsu and since then the company I joined has been merging with Fujitsu UK. (For reasons that don't matter here, it's been a fairly complex process.)

On July 22nd, I received an email from the trade union Unite, which it appears was sent to every employee of the old Fujitsu Siemens Computer company. It invited me to join Unite and attached a two page brochure explaining the benefits.

Now of course, you may be for or against trade unions in general or Unite in particular. I'm not trying to persuade you either way in this blog.

However, I was interested to read in the Independent recently that Unite gave £15m to the Labour Party last year. That's about £7 for every member of Unite. It's donated regardless of the political preference of the members.

To me this seems that joining Unite is equivalent to becoming a disenfranchised member of the Labour Party. I pay the money, but I don't get to vote on Labour Party policy (or anything else). Why would I want to do that, even if I were a Labour supporter? For that matter, who says that Labour is the best party for employed people? When Labour came to power in 1997, unemployment was rapidly shrinking. After 12 years of Labour rule, unemployment is rapidly rising and is higher than at any time since 1995.

I've asked Unite to justify their stance. I'll let you know what I hear.


Anthony said...

The current increasing unemployment, I believe, is due to the recession. Unless you're arguing the GLOBAL economic recession wouldn't have occurred under the conservatives, then your comparison of 1997 and 2009 seems to need further elaboration.

Stuart said...


Repeat after me: It all started in America, it all started in America...

Sean Haffey said...

I think you'll find it's more complicated than that. (original statement from Ben Goldacre)

There is a worldwide recession. However, by most measures the UK is substantially worse off than other developed nations.

Arash said...

[Health & Sanity Warning: This is not a serious post.]

Of course the government has been good for employed people. The minimum wage has gone up (oh yes, and there is now a minimum wage). It's just a shame there are now less employed people around to enjoy the benefits!

Craig said...

The credit crunch seems a bit irrelevant to this. That aside, the argument seems reasonable. Forcing people to associate their union membership with a particular party in the UK in the 21st century is concerning.

But if most union members resented the association, what stops them from simply voting it down?

Sean Haffey said...

In fact, it's self defeating: only about 20% of my company belong.

FYI: I'm still awaiting an answer to my question to Unite.

Colin said...

Why don't you write and ask unite if they could channel your political levy to another party, like, for instance the Tories?