Blair slows reforms to carry union vote

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Indy Politics
The Labour leadership is expected to water down pro- posals for modernising party decision-making in order to win the backing of the big unions.

Today, one of Labour's big-gest affiliates will add its voice to demands that unions maintain a strong presence in the party structure.

Party sources said the leadership is preparing to amend their proposals in order to win over the union block vote and defeat demands from constituencies that the whole package of proposals contained in the "Labour Into Power" document be postponed for a year.

Senior figures are expected to agree to allow unions and constituencies to submit motions at conferences even if they contradict party policy. They are also likely to be given assurances that they will not lose any of the 12 union seats on the National Executive Committee. The NEC is due later this month to finalise its policy which was originally intended to make the annual conference a rubber-stamping process for policies which had been assisted through a system of policy forums.

The biennial conference of the Transport & General Workers' Union is today expected to endorse overwhelmingly a resolution calling for unions to keep their half share of the votes at policy-making annual conferences and that they be allowed to submit motions to it.

The TGWU resolution, which also calls for the sovereignty of the annual assembly to be respected, comes in the wake of a strongly worded memorandum submitted to the Labour leadership by the right-wing and normally loyal Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union. The document accuses the "so-called ultra-modernisers" in the party of behaving like, "right-wing Trotskyists trying to outdo each other in their extremism and outrageousness". Peter Mandelson, Labour's eminence gris is thought to be one of the targets for the accusations.

Together with public service union, Unison, the GMB general union and MSF, they make up more than 40 per cent of the total vote at the party conference in October. According to some sources, the party is determined to reduce the 50 per cent of the policy-making vote now enjoyed by unions, and might try to do so next year.

The resolution from the TGWU reminds the party leadership that Labour was "set up to provide a collective voice in parliament for organise labour". If the organisational links were broken it would destroy any prospect of the party realising the Labour movement's values of equality and solidarity. The federal nature of the Labour structure should not be disrupted, otherwise it would cease to be a means of attaining fundamental economic and social change. The resolution says maximum unity of the labour movement would be crucial to the success of the Government.

t John Monks, TUC general secretary, last night sought to bring employers on board ahead of legislation to enforce union recognition.

He told the annual dinner of the North-west CBI that the movement was not looking for "heavy punishments" to create martyrs out of recalcitrant employers. He urged employers to pave the way for legislation through dialogue.