Unions should get involved in local policy-making. However, they should be wary of local partnerships with the government, businesses and community organisations, since such partnerships are often undemocratic. Confrontational strategies are a better option, argues Jonathan Davies, who studies local partnerships.
"I think the role of trade unions in local policy making is very important. But in the UK, it is largely non-existent, particularly in the partnership institutions that I do research on. This is a legacy of the particularly severe defeats suffered by the left in the 1980s and 1990s which I think were worse in Britain than anywhere else in Europe. The movement has yet to recover fully, although there are some promising signs", Davies said.
Examples of such promising developments include the mobilisations against the privatisation of council housing, in which Amicus was involved, and T&G's involvement in successful London Living Wage campaign (unions Amicus and T&G have by now merged into Unite). Such confrontational strategies not only reduce the risk of being co-opted by the government, Davies argues, but they are also more democratic. Further, they offer far better opportunities than depoliticised partnerships to empower disadvantaged groups.
Jonathan Davies. See also: Defend Council Housing, Living Wage campaign. Photo: London Citizens