UK & World News
GMB Union Slashes Labour's Funding By £1m
A leading union is slashing its affiliation funds to Labour by more than £1m in the wake of the row over party reforms.
The GMB has revealed it will cut the funding from £1.2m to £150,000 and warned of "further reductions" in spending on Labour campaigns and initiatives.
The decision by the 65-member central executive council (CEC) follows plans by Ed Miliband to give union members the choice to join the party rather than being automatically affiliated.
There have been estimates that the change will cost Labour at least £9m, which would drastically diminish the party's coffers.
The GMB has affiliated 420,000 of its members to Labour, at £3 per member per year, but that figure will be cut to 50,000 from January.
The executive of the GMB, the third biggest union in the country, made its decision after a lengthy discussion at a meeting in Dublin.
It is understood that only one member disagreed with the move and in a statement, the union was highly critical of the Labour leader's approach.
A spokesman said: "GMB CEC expressed considerable regret about the apparent lack of understanding the proposal mooted by Ed Miliband will have on the collective nature of trade union engagement with the Labour Party.
"A further source of considerable regret to the CEC is that the party that had been formed to represent the interest of working people in this country intends to end collective engagement of trade unions in the party they helped to form.
"The CEC also decided to scale down by one third the level of its national political fund."
Mr Miliband unveiled his plans to reform Labour's union links earlier this year after the row over alleged ballot fixing in a selection race in Falkirk.
Unite was accused of signing up members so that it could influence the selection, although the union insisted it did nothing wrong.
Mr Miliband has claimed giving members the choice about joining Labour will increase the party's legitimacy and could push up membership.
But Labour MP Ian Lavery has described the affiliation reform as the "biggest political gamble" in the history of the party.
Mr Lavery, who chairs the trade union group of Labour MPs, said he believed fewer than 15% of union members would opt to join.
"People are not queuing up to join Labour - quite the opposite. They are waiting to see what the party will bring to the table in its manifesto," he said.
Although tensions mounted after the Falkirk row, unions have been unhappy with the party over its policies for some time.
The affiliation move appears to have been the final straw.
Labour is due to hold a special conference next spring to finalise details of the changes.
The party tried to play down the cut, with a source claiming its "biggest financial contribution" comes from small donations and members.
The source said: "While we welcome all support, this is a matter for the GMB."