Unite the Union is a left-of-center labor union, and the largest in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. It is the largest individual donor to the Labour Party, the left-wing major party in the U.K., despite reducing the number of members it affiliates to the party after the leadership candidate it endorsed due to her “standing for unity” and “socialism” was defeated. Even though the union reduced its membership, it still considers itself to “remain Labour’s largest trade union affiliate,” and is “very proud to be.”
Unite the Union states that it aims to be “progressive,” and brags that it is “a major political force, with over 100 members in the House of Commons, and further members in the European Parliament.” According to a financial report circulated amongst members, the union received £7,831,000 (around $10,340,013) for its political fund and had a total expenditure of £4,004,000 (approximately $5,286,861) which was spent on supporting the Labour Party.
Unite the Union, also known as Unite, is the largest labor union in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The union was formed in 2007 after a merger between the previous second- and third-largest unions, Amicus and the Transport and General Workers’ Union (T&G). As of January 2012, Unite had approximately 1,400,000 members, including about 200,000 members who work in the government sector. Unite the Union offers its members multiple services, including financial advice, mortgages, debt management, accidental death cover, car insurance, home insurance, life insurance, travel insurance, and various discounts.
Unite the Union also has an internal legal service, Unite Legal Services, which offers union members various legal advice and aid for victims of personal injuries, clinical negligence, conveyancing, will writing, powers of attorney, and living wills. The union also offers a credit union, a non-profit co-operative that allows members to apply for financial products such as long-term loans, payday loans, and bank accounts, which banks might have refused due to a bad financial record.
Due to the lack of transparency in financial reports in the United Kingdom, there is little information on how much Unite the Union receives in total revenue on an annual basis.
According to a financial report circulated to members in 2013, Unite the Union received a total income of £167,216,000 (approximately $220,791,170), £151,136,000 (around $199,559,218) of which came from contributions from members. The total expenditure for 2013 was £131,149,000 (close to $173,168,483).
Unite the Union also has a political fund, which is typically spent supporting the United Kingdom’s left-wing major party, the Labour Party. According to the 2013 report, contributions to this fund amounted to a total of £7,468,000 (around $9,070,900). With an expenditure of £4,787,000 (close to $6,320,730) in political funding, Unite the Union retained a surplus of £2,681,000 (approximately $3,539,979).
The union, in another financial report circulated to members in 2018, noted during that year it received £213,073,000 (approximately $281,340,523) in total income with £167,227,000 (around $220,805,694) coming from member contributions. It also received £39,660,000 (nearly $52,366,865) in actuarial gains, the difference between actual pension payments compared to projected pension payments. Unite the Union had a total expenditure of £148,817,000 (around $196,497,222) for the same year.
Unite the Union also has a “Benevolent Fund” through which its members can apply for a “one-off grant” that was created to “support members during times of financial hardship.” It takes into account Unite the Union’s available budget and requires members to submit an application detailing their “income, savings, capital, debts and housing expenditure,” as well as details on the members’ circumstances.
Unite the Union received £7,831,000 (around $10,340,013) for its political fund and had a total expenditure of £4,004,000 (approximately $5,286,861). According to the 2018 report, Len McClusky, the General Secretary of Unite the Union, was paid a total of £96,095 (around $126,883) in 2018 with £77,324 (close to $102,098) coming from his general salary, while other types of income came in the form of benefits.
Database company Statista has recorded data on the financial assets of Unite the Union. According to the company, Unite the Union held just under £300,000,000 (nearly $396,118,500) in gross assets in 2007-2008. The lowest total gross assets dipped to just over £209,000,000 (approximately $275,962,555) in 2010-2011 and grew to its highest amount in 2017-2018 when it held a total gross asset amount of close to £350,000,000 (around $462,138,250). Assets for Unite the Union dipped to just under £270,000,000 (around $356,506,650) in 2018-2019 but Statista noted that this figure has not been adjusted for inflation.
The union claims to “strive to be” “open and democratic,” as well as “progressive,” and “united and tolerant.” It also states that its members also partake in politics throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland, as well as Europe. It claims to be “a major political force, with over 100 members in the House of Commons, and further members in the European Parliament.”
Unite the Union is the U.K. Labour Party’s biggest individual donor despite its move to reduce the number of members it affiliates to the party in 2020.
According to the BBC referencing a leaflet sent to Unite the Union members: “A full-time Unite member paying at the ‘core’ rate pays 66p per month into the Political Fund.” The leaflet is also quoted as stating that “this is not a ballot on affiliation to the Labour Party. It is about whether we can spend any money on political purposes at all.” The BBC also noted that “the unions who make a contribution get a say in policy-making and choosing the Labour leader.”
Unite the Union itself referenced itself to be the Labour Party’s “biggest affiliate” in January of 2020. It endorsed Labour Party leadership candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey, a Member of Parliament for a Manchester-area constituency, due to her “standing for unity, socialism,” and to ensure current Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “term in office short-lived.” Unite also called their nominated candidates a “credit to our party,” indicating its political allegiance to Labour. The union then cut its member affiliation with the Labour Party to “nurture emerging talent” in October 2020. Unite the Union highlighted that it would be reducing the number of “members it affiliates to the party” by 50,000, however; Unite will continue to “remain Labour’s largest trade union affiliate,” adding that its “something that we are very proud to be.”
Unite continued by recognizing that its “financial support and dedicated activists” help keep the Labour Party “election-ready.” Unite added that it made the move due to a “want to use our political funding to support and nurture the newer voices in our movement.”
Unite the Union created Workers Uniting, a labor union partnership between the United Steelworkers in the United States, and itself. Its member unions represent more than three million active and retired workers from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and the Republic of Ireland. It claims to exist to stop “fight right-wing cuts” in areas such as pensions and social services, and increase “exposure” of “Democratic Party primaries” and the Labour Party conference.
Len McClusky took over the leadership position of Unite in 2010 after he received around 101,000 votes in an election that had a 16% turnout. McClusky, who has been an active trade unionist since 1968, held senior positions in Unite and the Transport and General Workers’ Union before his leadership appointment.