Socialist Worker

Blair crisis: historic union break with Labour

Issue No. 1907

THE 52,000-strong Fire Brigades Union has finally lost patience with this government and has voted to end its 86-year affiliation to Labour. That decision at the union's conference last week has sent shockwaves through the union movement.

Firefighters are not alone. The Communication Workers Union has put New Labour on notice that it could suspend all financial contributions to the party. Engineering union Amicus, which has traditionally been loyal to the government and strongly pro European Union, has warned Tony Blair that it might oppose him over the new EU constitution.

Amicus general secretary Derek Simpson made a speech at the TUC's pensions rally that included a coded call on Blair to resign. That was also the feeling of many delegates to the conference of the Britain's largest union, Unison, this week.

This outpouring of pent-up bitterness with New Labour is not being driven by national union leaders. Most of them are trying to avoid head-on confrontation with the government.

It is coming from ordinary workers who are sickened by New Labour's Tory policies at home and abroad. The same feeling is behind the calls for strikes by firefighters, rail, tube and other workers.

They want and deserve serious resistance and sweeping change, not half-measures and coded speeches.

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Sat 26 Jun 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1907
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