Union calls early ballot on Labour link

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN's biggest craft union is seeking to capitalise on the Government's unpopularity by holding a ballot among its members on continued affiliation to the Labour Party this summer - 18 months early.

The decision by the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union also means that it will receive pounds 120,000 from the Government as a 75 per cent contribution to the cost of the vote. Under new regulations the state intends to reduce its donation for the cost of union ballots to 50 per cent in 1994, 25 per cent in 1995 and nothing thereafter.

Many of the large unions are expected to hold their ballots simultaneously and might now consider holding them this year. Most are due in 1994 under trade union law which dictates a 10-year gap between votes.

Gavin Laird, the union's general secretary, announced the decision on the eve of the AEEU national committee meeting in Llandudno, where the union is likely to disclose a yes vote on its continued affiliation to the the TUC. A referendum among members has been held in the wake of the merger of the engineering and electrical unions to form the AEEU. The electricians were expelled from the TUC for infringing its rules on single union agreements.

Bill Jordan, president of the AEEU, yesterday became the first senior figure in the Labour movement to acknowledge that an economic recovery was under way when he said the 'green shoots' of an upturn were now clearly visible.

Mr Jordan's comments mean that he is breaking ranks with Labour Party leaders and trade unionists who have so far registered scepticism over suggestions of an upturn.

However, the union leader did say the incipient growth had been won at the cost of unprecedented cutbacks in productivity, capacity and employment.