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Bectu members vote to stay with Labour

In a postal ballot of almost 26,000 members, more than two thirds of Bectu members have supported the continuation of the union's link with Labour.
Welcoming the result, General Secretary Roger Bolton said: "I'm pleased that members have voted to stay with Labour, and especially pleased that a record number took part in the ballot. However, we can't ignore those that voted against the affiliation, and Labour should not be complacent about its relationship with the unions."
The turnout in the ballot, just over 30%, was the highest in any membership-wide ballot conducted by the union in recent years, and 72% of participants accepted a recommendation from the Bectu leadership that the affiliation should be retained.
During the ballot, members were urged by the union's National Executive Committee to put aside individual concerns about Labour policies, and, instead, consider the industrial benefits of exercising influence within the party in pursuit of their workplace objectives.
Disenchantment with Labour had been voiced by many delegates to the union's annual conference in May 2003, leading to a vote which instructed the NEC to research the possibility of alternative parliamentary representation and then conduct a ballot on Bectu's affiliation to Labour.
Several members who attended a series of open meetings in the run-up to the ballot expressed concerns about a range of issues including the invasion of Iraq, and the party's unwillingness to overturn the many restrictive labour laws introduced in 18 years of Conservative government.
In the campaign to win support for the affiliation, the union's leadership emphasised the success Bectu have had in gaining access to ministers on a range of issues affecting the broadcasting and entertainment industries while Labour has been in government.
The union plan to meet senior party managers to discuss Bectu's continuing relationship with Labour, and will be raising immediate concerns about the future of ITV, privatisation of BBC Technology, and public funding of theatres - issues where the government will play a crucial role in deciding the future of the union's members.
Bectu are also pressing for the government to extend a 48-hour limit on the working week to all workers, instead of continuing with an exemption from European legislation which was introduced under pressure from business interests.
Other problems will also be raised with the government. For example, although Bectu has praised Labour for the introduction of statutory union recognition, there are now many cases in which companies in the broadcasting and entertainment sector have abused the legislation to prevent members winning full representation and protection.
"Now that members have made their decision I hope to report to future BECTU conferences that our issues are at the heart of Labour policy-making," said Roger Bolton, "For the moment, though, the debate about affiliation is over".

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