By Cassie Chambers
The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union has voted to fund independent candidates in elections, in what it claims is a "historic" move to fight austerity.
The UK's sixth largest union decided by a margin of four to one to support anti-austerity candidates in national elections, saying they will consider funding independent candidates where neither party represents their views.
The policy change means a Labour candidate who supports cuts in public services could, for example, face an independent candidate backed by the 292,000-strong PCS.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said the union vote could have significant implications for the upcoming elections, stating: "This is a historic vote giving us another weapon in our fight against cuts and for the alternative to austerity.
"It will allow us to directly challenge the Westminster cuts consensus that is making scapegoats of public sector workers, the unemployed, pensioners and students, and destroying our communities," he continued.
This is the first time a union has adopted a policy of backing independent candidates to stand against the established political parties.
PCS, which has no formal ties to the Labour party, insisted that the move did not represent an attempt to found a new party, saying the policy will be applied in "exceptional circumstances rather than a general principle".
Seventy-eight per cent of those taking part in the union ballot voted in favour of the measure. Low turnout of 20%, however, meant that only one in six PCS members voted for the new policy.