Why isn't there a Welsh Public Service Trades Union?

During the late 1970's through to the early 1990's I was a member, a section steward, a branch secretary and a district chair of a trades union known as NUPE (The National Union of Public Employees). The union represented health service employees, local government employees, the ancillary staff of Universities and weirdly, junior Anglican Clerics and Methodist Ministers.

NUPE was affiliated to the Labour Party.

As a senior lay officer I often use to attend Welsh "regional" gatherings of the union, when I attended such gatherings I was always surprised at the fact that very few of those gathered were members of the Labour Party. There were quite a few Communists and Co-op party supporters, a smattering of Greens and SWP members, but by far the largest group of party affiliates were members of Plaid Cymru (as was I at the time).

In 1993, just after I had left the public sector UNISON joined with CoHSE (the Confederation of Health Service Employees) and NALGO (The National Union of Local Government Employees – a non aligned union) to form UNISON. Unison is the Union of which Ian Titherington (Grangetown Jack) is now a senior lay member.

From what I read on Ian's blog, it appears that UNISON in the 2010's is similar to NUPE in the 1980's, a Union with a large number of Plaid supporting members and lay union officials who also hold office in Plaid, and a significant number of supporters who belong to parties other than Labour or who have no particular party affiliation.

A question that I use to ask often amongst the great and the good of NUPE Cymru in the 1990's was why don't we form an independent non-affiliated Welsh public service union or an independent union affiliated to Plaid?

The answer was always that the Wales TUC wouldn't countenance such a Union because the TUC was Labour dominated and without TUC membership the "new" union would be too week.

Is this still the opinion of Plaid and other non Labour trade unionists in Wales? Or has the time come to form a distinctly Welsh Public Service Union, given that so many public services are devolved?


  1. Seems to me that what is needed is an independent non-affiliated Wales TUC!

    If David Milliband wins the Labour leadership race there may be more scope than has existed in a generation for such a radical move.

  2. Better still, reform the rules on party funding so that any legal person (which could be a human being, a company, or a trades union) can only donate the ninth decile individual earnings (about £1000 per week) to any political party. That would make the anomalous political alignment issue go away, as parties would no longer be able to prostitute their editorial line to wealthy organizations and individuals.

  3. I am a member of PCS (Public & Commercial Services Union)and am more than happy that it is not affiliated to any political party.