“The dramatic upsurge in strikes, often involving members of Labour-affiliated unions, highlights the [Trade Union Liaison Officer’s] importance, especially when Labour’s leadership distances itself from industrial action”
By George Binette, Hackney North & Stoke Newington CLP Trade Union Liaison Officer, writing in a personal capacity
In theory, a CLP’s trade union liaison officer (TULO) has the potential to help bridge the historic divide between the labour movement’s industrial and political wings. In practice, TULO elections are all too often an afterthought.
But the dramatic upsurge in strikes, often involving members of Labour-affiliated unions, highlights the role’s importance, especially when Labour’s leadership distances itself from industrial action with Keir Starmer’s edict to his front bench to steer clear of picket lines.
I first won election in 2017 as Hackney North & Stoke Newington’s TULO, standing on a platform that declared the CLP should become “the first port of call for solidarity with workers in struggle”. Since then, we have revitalised relationships with unions, regardless of affiliation status.
In 2019 the CLP organised fundraising and picket line visits to support striking PCS members employed on outsourced contracts at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, making a small contribution to their eventual victory. After the 2019 election defeat, the CLP campaigned to bring ancillary staff at Homerton hospital back into NHS employment.
There are regular union updates in the CLP’s monthly e-newsletter and since October I’ve introduced a weekly email to dozens of members, highlighting upcoming strikes and ballots. In addition, the Hackney Gazette now carries a monthly column from me as TULO.
Our CLP banner regularly features on picket lines and union-initiated rallies. RMT and UNISON speakers have addressed local branch meetings. We’ve forged strong links with CWU members at the Royal Mail delivery office in Stoke Newington. An early December benefit gig, organised by Hackney North CLP, attracted well over 100 people and raised more than £1,350 for the CWU hardship fund. In addition to Diane Abbott, the borough’s directly elected mayor and several councillors have visited the picket line.
Of course, having a supportive majority on the CLP’s executive and Diane Abbott as MP have helped, but our experience has highlighted what can still be achieved despite the Party’s current internal regime.
- George Binette is the Trade Union Liaison Officer for Hackney North & Stoke Newington CLP, writing in a personal capacity.
- This article is reproduced from the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy CLPD briefing, “Labour activists – for the many, not the few – How Labour Party activists can organise in their CLP in pursuit of a radical agenda,” it explores in detail how grassroots activists can still make a real difference in the party. You can read it in full here.
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