Unison joins attack on Labour’s “breathtaking naivety” on austerity

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By a Newsnet reporter

A third major trade union has joined the attack on Ed Miliband’s strategy of supporting the Conservatives’ cuts and austerity agenda.  Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis accused the Labour leader of “breathtaking naivety” for his support for a public sector pay-freeze.

Mr Prentis warned that the Labour party front bench’s position risked damaging the party’s chance of re-election as it had “snatched away” a reason for voting for the party.

Mr Prentis said:  “Our members needed hope and a reason to vote Labour. They have been snatched away.

“In the past year, Labour has struggled to get its message across to show that there is an alternative to the coalition’s savage cuts in our public services and the attack on the living standards of millions of ordinary working people.

“He has decided to embrace a Tory pay policy that hits millions of public service workers, particularly low-paid women – care workers, hospital cleaners and dinner ladies – who have already had two years of pay freezes and job losses.

“Ed Miliband’s naivety is breathtaking, and his ill-thought-through comments will have unintended consequences. At a time when hard-working families are struggling to make ends meet, the very party which they look to to stand by them has chosen instead to play cheap politics with their lives.”

Earlier this week, Len McLuskey of the trade union Unite said that Labour’s new policy would put the party on a path to “destruction” and lead to “certain electoral defeat”.  The union is the largest single donor to Labour funds.

The GMB union has announced that it is considering disaffiliating from the Labour party over its change in policy.  Earlier this week GMB general secretary Paul Kenny wrote to the party leadership and accused them of making “the most serious mistake they could have”.  Officials for the union have suggested that members could be given a vote at its June conference on whether to retain their ties with the Labour party.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, which is not affiliated to Labour, joined in the criticisms and claimed that the party was now “doomed”.

Between July 2010 and last September, Unite gave £5m to Labour and the GMB paid £1.9m.  Most of this money was raised in the ‘political levy’ paid by members of trade unions affiliated to the Labour party.  The contributions from Unite and the GMB represent 43.2% of all donations made to the party.  In total around 90% of the Labour party’s funding comes in the form of donations from trade unions.