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Cablegate: Uk Unions Put Their Money On Labour Party, But

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SENSITIVE
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SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/11/2020
TAGS: ECON ELAB PGOV UK
SUBJECT: UK UNIONS PUT THEIR MONEY ON LABOUR PARTY, BUT
OPEN DIALOGUE WITH CONSERVATIVES

REF: 09 LONDON 2770

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Classified By: Economic Minister Counselor Richard Albright for reasons
1.4 (b), (d)

1. (SBU) Summary. British trade unions, though not the
political force they once were, continue to be the primary
source of funding for the Labour Party's electoral campaign,
contributing 72 percent of Labour's total donations. The
unions expect either a Labour or Conservative government to
implement substantial budget cuts after the general election
expected in May. Many unions oppose these proposed cuts
outright or at least view them skeptically. However, they
view Labour as the more "humane" option to implementing the
cuts. Nevertheless, the Conservatives have publically
engaged the unions in a dialogue in the lead up to the
election, an indication of the party's desire to be seen as
more centrist and inclusive than previous Tory governments.
End Summary.

UNIONS LARGEST CONTRIBUTOR TO LABOUR PARTY
------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Through the third quarter of 2009 trade unions have
donated nearly GBP 8 million ($12.5 million) to the Labour
Party, representing roughly 72 percent of the total GBP 10.9
million ($17 million) donated in that time period. In
general, large unions such as Unite, whose 2 million members
represent myriad industrial and public sectors, as well as
some small, specialized unions support the Labour Party with
money and political organizing efforts. The Conservative
Party has criticized Labour's dependence on unions, most
recently when the party's chairman, Eric Pickles, reportedly
said this dependence has left the current government "utterly
incapable of making the right decisions for the country".

LABOUR BUDGET CUTS MORE "HUMANE"
--------------------------------

3. (SBU/NF) Doug Rooney, Unite's National Officer for Energy
and Utilities, acknowledged to EconOff that there is little
difference between Labour and Conservative rhetoric on plans
to reduce the deficit. He predicted unions would push back
on either a Labour or Tory government if proposed budget cuts
were to endanger union jobs, particularly the shelving of
public sector industrial projects or cutting
government-sponsored job training programs. However, he said
he believes Labour will pursue the budget cuts in a more
"humane" manner, quipping, "It's better to work with the
devil you know".

CONSERVATIVES ENGAGE THE UNIONS
-------------------------------

4. (SBU/NF) Influential Conservative Party Shadow Chancellor
George Osborne met with the General Secretary of the Trades
Union Congress (TUC), a powerful union umbrella group (see
Ref A for background on TUC), on January 13. Local press
commented this meeting was an indication of the Tory
leadership's effort to distance itself from a generally
distrustful and hostile tack that Margaret Thatcher pursued
with the unions when she led a Tory government. Owen Tudor,
Head of EU and International Relations at TUC, seemed to
confirm this view when he told EconOff that the Tories - not
TUC - had informed the left-leaning Guardian of the meeting
to exhibit their centrist credentials. The meeting also
provided the TUC with the opportunity to voice its concerns
over proposed budget cuts and public sector pay freezes.
Notwithstanding these initial discussions, the Tories admit
they do not always see eye-to-eye with the unions. As
Theresa May, the Conservative Shadow Secretary of State for
Work and Pensions, recently put it to a gathering of Western
diplomats, "We're talking to unions... we won't always agree,
but we're talking".

5. (SBU/NF) Comment. Statistics show membership in British
trade unions has decreased by nearly fifty percent over the
past three decades to less than 8 million people. This
decline in membership has coincided with a similar decline in
the trade unions' influence over domestic politics. The
unions have funded the vast majority of the Labour Party's
electoral campaign war chest, and a Labour loss in the
upcoming election would strike a significant blow to the
unions' influence. However, deep budget cuts will certainly
spark lively disagreements between the unions and whichever
party wins the elections this spring. This is especially
true with public sector workers, who are three times as
likely to be in a union as their private sector counterparts.
In this respect, the unions will work hard to temper some of

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the more ambitious attempts by the next government to reduce
the budget, particularly in the areas of wage freezes or
shedding government-sector jobs. End Comment.

Visit London's Classified Website:
http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Unit ed_Kingdom

SUSMAN

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