The Bakers’ union is to disaffiliate from Labour, saying the party has “travelled away” from the aims and hopes of working class organisations.
The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union was a founding union of the Labour Party. After 119 years it has now voted to disaffiliate from the Labour party, accusing Starmer of a “factional internal war”.
In a statement released this afternoon, it berates Sir Keir Starmer for failing to engage with issues such as workers’ wages, the widespread use of food banks and for failing to provide leadership amid the current fuel crisis.
The union, which has been affiliated with Labour for 119 years, said: “The decision taken by delegates who predominantly live in what’s regarded as Labour red wall seats shows how far the Labour party has travelled away from the aims and hopes of working class organisations like ours.”
The statement continued: “We need footballers to campaign to ensure our schoolchildren get a hot meal. Workers in our sector, who keep the nation fed, are relying on charity and goodwill from family and friends to put food on their tables. They rely on help to feed their families, with 7.5% relying on food banks, according to our recent survey.
“But instead of concentrating on these issues, we have a factional internal war led by the leadership. We have a real crisis in the country and instead of leadership, the party’s leader chooses to divide the trade unions and the membership by proposing changes to the way elections for his successor will take place.
“We don’t see that as a political party with any expectations of winning an election. It’s just the leader trying to secure the right wing faction’s chosen successor.”
BFAWU emphasised that far from leaving the political scene, it intends to become more political and battle for £15 per hour for all workers, the abolition of zero hours contracts and an end to a lower minimum wage for young people.
In 2015, The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union were leading campaigners for the £10 an hour minimum wage. Rightly so in 2021 they now advocate a £15 minimum wage. In view of the fact, the nearest General election would be 2024 and the Tories have already announced the living wage will be £10.50 it seems the right and natural policy for Labour to campaign on.
Labour conference backs £15 minimum wage and sick pay at living wage
Ironically again the members have spoken, conference backed the £15 an hour.
Delegates at Labour’s annual conference have voted for a motion committing the party to raising the minimum wage to £15 per hour following the resignation of Andy McDonald who said he was told to argue against the policy.
After a debate at the conference centre in Brighton this afternoon on the motion, which also committed Labour to raising statutory sick pay to a living wage, the party’s annual gathering backed the policy via a show of hands.
The current minimum wage is £8.91 per hour for those aged 23 and over, £8.36 for those aged 21 and 22, and £6.56 for 18 to 20-year olds. Labour has committed to raising the legal minimum to £10 per hour, as confirmed in its employment rights green paper published over the weekend.
Labour is not bound by policy passed at its annual conference – even if motions are passed unanimously. It is Labour’s national policy forum (NPF) and ‘Clause V’ meeting before an election that decides which parts of the party programme are included in the manifesto.
Earlier on Tuesday BFAWU general secretary, Sarah Wooley, expressed dismay at not being called to contribute to the Right to Food debate.
The campaign highlights the difficulty food workers, who the union represents, are facing in feeding themselves.
Wooley wrote in a tweet: “Extremely disappointed not to have been able to contribute to the #RightToFood debate this morning on behalf of @bfawuofficial at #Lab21. Our members have kept the nation fed through the pandemic and deserve a voice.”
The threat of disaffiliation has been brewing for some time. In August, BFAWU national president Ian Hodson was threatened with expulsion from the Labour party because he was listed as a patron of Labour Against the Witchhunt – an organisation recently proscribed by the party – but which he has not had any dealings with since 2017.
No ifs or buts people deserve a real wage they can live on pic.twitter.com/uIbITe4rTH— Ian Hodson (@IanBFAWU) September 28, 2021
In a statement released in August, the union’s executive “expressed dismay and anger at the idea the Labour Party should consider expelling the office of our nominated political leader in our organisation” and agreed that disaffiliation should be debated.
A recent survey of BFAWU membership had returned a majority in favour of disaffiliation.
Momentum responded to BFAWU disaffiliation by saying: “The Bakers’ Union founded the Labour Party, and their decision to disaffiliate is a shocking consequence of Starmer’s failure to stand up for working people.”
The BFAWU has particularly drawn attention to the demand for setting a minimum wage of £15 per hour for all workers. Labour has called for £10, and this difference has been a key source of tension between the leadership and the unions.
Andy McDonald resigned from the shadow cabinet on Monday, saying it was because Starmer’s office told him to “argue against a national minimum wage of £15 an hour and against statutory sick pay at the living wage”.
Sir Keir Starmer has been accused of a U-turn because he previously marched with McDonald’s workers and called for a £15 minimum.
He said at the 2019 protest: “They’re asking for the basics – £15 an hour, the right to know their hours in advance, have trade union recognition. That ought to be the norm in 21st Century Britain, and it will be a norm when we have a Labour government.”
Corbyn ally Diane Abbott told the BBC: “It is a fact that Sir Keir Starmer did support £15 an hour until recently and he has been on protest demanding it.”
What does Starmer say now?
The Labour leader insists his 2019 comments were specifically about McDonald’s workers, not everyone in society.
He said: “What I said in November 2019 was in relation to particular industrial disputes at McDonald’s, where that was the aim of the dispute.
“I backed them in that, I’d back them again today in relation to that.
“The minimum wage, across the whole of the economy, is a completely different issue and what we did today to say there should be a £10 minimum wage, that’s a 12% increase, £2,000 a year for working families.”
Starmer’s basic training as a barrister was not wasted, his use of Wesley words and double meanings are second to none.
The Bakers’ Union statement concludes: “The BFAWU will not be bullied by bosses or politicians. When you pick on one of us, you take on all of us. That’s what solidarity means.”
Below is the full statement.
The decision taken by delegates who predominantly live in what’s regarded as Labour red wall seats shows how far the Labour Party has travelled away from the aims and hopes of working class organisations like ours.
The decision by the party to not engage with a union that levied its poorly paid members in 1902 to build a party that would bring about real change to their lives, is the culmination of a failure to deliver those changes during our 119 year relationship.
In 1902 we had thousands being fed by the king, while today the poor must feed themselves. We need footballers to campaign to ensure our schoolchildren get a hot meal. Workers in our sector, who keep the nation fed, are relying on charity and good will from family and friends to put food on their tables. They rely on help to feed their families, with 7.5% relying on food banks, according to our recent survey.
But instead of concentrating on these issues we have a factional internal war led by the leadership. We have a real crisis in the country and instead of leadership, the party’s leader chooses to divide the trade unions and the membership by proposing changes to the way elections for his successor will take place. We don’t see that as a political party with any expectations of winning an election. It’s just the leader trying to secure the right wing faction’s chosen successor.
The decision taken by our delegates doesn’t mean we are leaving the political scene, it means we will become more political and we will ensure our members’ political voice is heard as we did when we started the campaign for £10 per hour in 2014. Today we want to see £15 per hour for all workers, the abolition of zero hours contracts and ending discrimination of young people by dispensing with youth rates.
The BFAWU will not be bullied by bosses or politicians. When you pick on one of us you take on all of us. That’s what solidarity means.
Labour Heartlands stands in solidarity with our comrades from the fabulous bakers union.