How will Unite’s clash with Labour effect the Birmingham Erdington by-election?
Speaking on a live Facebook broadcast yesterday evening, Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite the Union, suspended the union’s funding to the Labour Party whilst the Coventry bin strike against a Labour council continues.
She said: “So let me be very very clear. Until this strike is settled the remaining financial relationship with the Labour Party is now under review. There will be no Labour politician in the Midlands who will get one single penny from my members or any practical support of any kind while this strike is going ahead”.
This decision could affect the chances of Labour’s candidate in the Erdington by-election, Paulette Hamilton, as the union withdraws all “practical support of any kind”.
HGV drivers working for Coventry City council are currently on the 17th day of all-out strike action, seeking a pay increase to cope with the cost of living rises. The Labour-led city council has employed external drivers to collect waste during the strike, reportedly at up to twice the hourly rate of the drivers on strike.
Coventry Live, a local news website, has revealed that the council has spent £1.8m on alternative arrangements during the strike: https://bit.ly/3sum891
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate in the Erdington by-election, Dave Nellist, himself a former Labour MP in Coventry and a Socialist Party councillor in the city from 1998 to 2012, said:
“In a city of famous union leaders such as Tom Mann and Jack Jones, where a Labour council was first elected in November 1937, this is shameful. For a party that calls itself Labour to pay twice the hourly rate to outside drivers to break a strike than the council pays its own drivers is scandalous”.
“Sharon Graham is right to be angry, and the Coventry HGV drivers are right to fight for a decent pay rise. In the months ahead, working-class families in Erdington face a £1,000-£2,000 cut in their living standards as food, fuel, energy, and taxes rise. With 111 live disputes calling for decent wages to combat the cost of living rise, Unite is showing how to fight back”.
“I hope Unite members will consider standing as independent, anti-austerity candidates in the May elections – Blue Tories, Red Tories, and Yellow Tories need challenging. Labour doesn’t deserve union support when it attacks workers like this”.
1. TUSC was co-founded in 2010 by the late Bob Crow, the RMT transport workers’ union leader. Along with the RMT, a constituent organisation of TUSC, its national steering committee involves leading trade unionists from seven other unions together with the Socialist Party, Resist – the party established by the former Labour MP Chris Williamson – and independent socialists.
2. TUSC stood sufficient candidates in the 2015 general election to qualify for a UK-wide election broadcast, headed by Dave Nellist, which can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcEMrCTVRdg. It recalibrated its electoral activity following Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, a development which it warmly welcomed. Consequently TUSC did not contest either the 2017 or 2019 general elections and only stood in other elections against those Labour candidates who opposed Jeremy Corbyn and were carrying out austerity policies. But with Keir Starmer in place as the Labour leader TUSC has now resumed standing candidates.
3. The campaign launch for Dave Nellist’s Erdington by-election challenge will be at noon on Saturday 12th February, at Highcroft Community Centre, 485 Slade Road, B23 7JH. Updates on the Birmingham Erdington campaign can be found at www.nellistforerdington.com Twitter:@dave4erdington