The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) is to disaffiliate from the Labour party, it has announced today.
The union is angry with the direction of the party under Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, accusing him of a “factional internal war”.
In a statement released this afternoon it berates Sir Keir 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 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.”
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.
It concluded: “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.”
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 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.
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 lead in our organisation” and agreed that disaffiliation should be debated.
A recent survey of BFAWU membership had returned a small majority in favour of disaffiliation.