The Unite union’s conference debated the union’s link with the Labour Party on Tuesday morning. The union donates more than £20 million to the party each year.
General secretary Len McCluskey spoke for a motion from the union executive calling for more “engagement with Labour at the grassroots”.
“This is about winning our party back so it that it represents working people again,” he said, “and it's about winning working people back to Labour so they can sweep the Tories back at the next election.”
He called for 5,000 members of Unite to join or rejoin Labour and get active in their constituencies.
McCluskey added, “When Labour gets things wrong we will speak out against them. That's why I spoke out against Miliband's shameful comments on public sector pay. But I welcome their argument that austerity isn't working. That's the argument that can win elections.”
A different motion called for putting pressure on Labour by making Unite's funding conditional. The motion called for 10 percent of funding that would have been spent on Labour diverted into campaigns for trade union freedom, unless Labour campaigns on the issue.
Another 10 percent would be diverted to the union's dispute fund unless the Labour leadership publicly supports Unite members taking industrial action.
Ray Morrell moved the motion saying, “Ed Miliband is at best looking both ways and at worst offering more of the same. He even boasted about crossing picket lines.
“It's all very well to send members to join Labour and eventually hope to replace MPs when they decide they have a better future on the board of some corporation. But that won't win anything for our members now.”
Sally Pirrie from the IT and communication sector said, “Of course we are Labour people and there's no shame in that. But we've had years of saying that there will be change and reform in the party. We cannot keep paying into Labour if it does not deliver.”
Ray concluded, “We need some leverage over the party if we are to have any clout to support reps who are fighting for Unite policies inside Labour.” Around a quarter of delegates voted to support the motion—but the executive's policy was eventually passed.