Jeremy Corbyn

The Labour re-affiliation debate

The Fire Brigades Union have called a special conference that will debate, amongst other issues, whether the union should re-affiliate to the Labour party following the election of FBU parliamentary group founder member Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

The FBU was an affiliate to the Labour party from the 1920’s until 2004 when a bitter pay dispute with the then Blair government led the union to disaffiliate.

In a video update (see above) and all members circular issued this week Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, laid out the union’s political strategy, proposed by the executive council, which calls for re-affiliation.  The proposals would not, however, result in the FBU affiliating to Labour in either Scotland or Northern Ireland and no political fund money from members in either region would go to the Labour party.

Matt Wrack writes in the circular: “It is a strategic debate which should be considered overall, taking account of the different pressures facing us in our regions.

“It is important to note that this is a debate and, as in most debates, there will be a range of views. Conference is the most democratic forum through which the union can discuss in detail the various issues we face and thereby ensure that we can identify the best way forward.

“Firefighters, like all workers across the UK (and especially those in the public sector) face a hugely difficult time as the Conservative government plans a further round of cuts in public spending and four more years of pay restraint.

“The Executive Council has been working to identify the best strategic way forward for our union taking account of the situation we face, the range of views which exist and the different position in different parts of the UK.”

Members are encouraged to read the full circular, detailing the issues discussed by the executive council when drafting the political engagement strategy, which can be viewed here.

One of the first trade unions to back Corbyn’s leadership bid, the FBUs decision on re-affiliation is expected to be announced at it’s special conference taking place on 27 November 2015 in Blackpool.

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The former FBU official who moved the resolution for the union to disaffiliate from the Labour party has come out in favour of the union’s new political strategy, which calls for re-affiliation.

In an open letter to members Tony Maguire, who served as the regional secretary of the FBU in Northern Ireland at the time of disaffiliation, argues that with the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader, the Labour party has changed and the union needs to be part of the debate to reform the party.

Read the full text of Tony Maguire’s letter here.

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Watch Matt Wrack debate the union’s consideration of re-affiliating to the Labour party on BBC news below.

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