Rail union slashes Labour funding and threatens to cut link

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The leader of Britain's biggest rail union warned Tony Blair yesterday that his organisation could break its historic link with Labour as it voted to slash almost £700,000 from its contribution to the party over the next five years.

The leader of Britain's biggest rail union warned Tony Blair yesterday that his organisation could break its historic link with Labour as it voted to slash almost £700,000 from its contribution to the party over the next five years.

In protest at government policies the RMT union cut its party affiliation fees by more than 80 per cent and removed its support from the constituencies of 13 Labour MPs including John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister.

There isgrowing unrest among unions over the Prime Minister's approach on a range of issues including his refusal to countenance the renationalisation of the rail network and his support for allegedly "anti-union" employment laws.

Bob Crow, the hard-left general secretary of the RMT, indicated that over the next year the Government's policies would be under close scrutiny and the union, one of the founders of Labour, could scrap its ties with the party.

The RMT's annual conference in Southport voted unanimously to cut £92,000 from its annual £112,000 affiliation fee and scrap its £44,000 donation to the 13 constituencies.

The union switched its allegiance to a new group of left-wing MPs, but made no decision about financial contributions to their local parties. It is possible that they will receive some of the £44,000.

Leaders of the union decided to remove their support for more orthodox Labour MP's because they refused to endorse an RMT manifesto which called for the state to resume control of the rail network, take action to prevent the decline in shipping jobs, abandon the public-private partnership for London Underground and repeal all "anti-union" employment laws.

The RMT general secretary told delegates that he expected next year's annual conference to debate whether the union should remain part of the Labour Party.

Mr Crow said Alistair Darling had not seen fit to meet RMT representatives since he became Secretary of State for Transport nearly a month ago.

"If they want our money they will have to roll their sleeves up and fight as hard as I do for the re-nationalisation of rail," Mr Crow said.

Labour risks losing the financial support of another large affiliate tomorrow when the annual conference of the Communication Workers' Union debates its link. The union is angry over the decision by Consignia to cut 30,000 jobs and proposals to end the organisation's postal monopoly.

Winners & losers and out

Labour MPs who won endorsement of rail union: Diane Abbott, Joe Benton, Harold Best, Helen Clark, Ann Cryer, Brian Donohoe, Bill Etherington, David Hamilton, Alice Mahon, John McDonnell, Jon Trickett and Robert Wareing.

MPs for whom RMT support was withdrawn: John Prescott, Gwyneth Dunwoody, Keith Hill, Robin Cook, Hugh Bayley, Ivan Henderson, John Hepple, Ian Lucas, Tam Dalyell, Tom Watson, Frank Dobson and Donald Anderson.

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