Jeremy Corbyn faces a members’ revolt over Labour chiefs' bid to cut the pension schemes of party staff in the wake of the loss-making ‘Jez fest’ Labour Live.
Workers at the party offices in London and Newcastle were told, the week before Christmas, that Labour proposed downgrading their pensions from a final salary scheme to a career-average plan.
A note handed to staff said they could not afford the more-generous benefit as it would hamper Labour’s ability to fight future elections.
A members’ motion, seen by HuffPost UK, has underlined the level of grassroots anger over the move after the party lost money organising the north London "festival of music and debate" Labour Live, in June.
Formby, Labour’s general secretary, and Jeremy Corbyn stand accused of a “disregard” for workers by Harrow West CLP (Constituency Labour Party).
Its motion, to be tabled at the London Labour regional conference in March, reads: “The party claims that the it cannot afford to ensure our hard-working staff receive a final salary pension without fear of it harming the party’s campaigning activity.
“This meeting would like to note the CLP’s anger at this, as financial restrictions have not hindered other non-campaigning activities, such as Labour Live.
“Such a decision to not support the staff of the Labour party while losing money, that could have been used on the staff, on events such as Labour Live is not in keeping with the party’s history and principles – putting the workers first.”
Harrow members were also angry at the timing of Labour’s announcement.
If selected, debated and voted for, the motion compels London Labour bosses to write to Formby and Corbyn to demand they back down over the pensions cut.
It reads: “Staff members were informed of the changes a week before Christmas. If a private company was to act with such disregard we would expect the Labour Party and Trade Unions fight for the workers.”
It comes as question marks hang over whether Labour’s finances are in trouble.
The party confirmed in September that last year’s Labour Live festival, dubbed ‘Jezfest’, failed to turn a profit, but insisted at the time that 13,000 tickets were sold and “many more” turned up on the day.
In the wake of the 2017 general election, Labour laid claim to being the “largest party in western Europe” after a surge in membership to 540,000.
Last week, the party was forced to deny that its paying membership has slumped to around 385,000 at an alleged cost of £6m, with the rank and file said to be unhappy with Corbyn’s Brexit stance.
A report by Politics Home also underlined nervousness among Labour MPs holding marginal seats over how the party could afford to fight the general election it is demanding.
An email to Formby from Bishop Auckland’s Helen Goodman reads: “As far as we can tell the party doesn’t yet have much of a strategy for holding our seats.
“The funding streams set up require matched funding, which for many of us is very difficult to raise and yet we are now an organisation with an annual income of over £50m pa. To match the Tories we believe the party should be putting £100,000 into all our seats and the 20 we wish to take, and moreover that this [is] now completely affordable.”
HuffPost UK understands the pensions issue remains unresolved and that staff are awaiting more information and a full consultation document from chiefs.
A Labour Party spokesman said: “We don’t comment on staffing matters.”
The full motion to London Labour regional conference
Harrow West CLP calls upon Jennie Formby (General Secretary of the Labour party) and Jeremy Corbyn (Leader of the Labour party) to review the decision to change the pension scheme for party staff from a final salary pension scheme to a contribution scheme.
Harrow West CLP affirms that the CLP are grateful to the services the staff of the party provide, enabling us to be involved within our movement and would like to pay thanks to party staff in helping the party move towards winning the next election.
Harrow West CLP notes that the Labour Party lost an undisclosed amount in running Labour Live. The party claims that the it cannot afford to ensure our hard-working staff receive a final salary pension without fear of it harming the party’s campaigning activity. This meeting would like to note the CLPs anger at this, as financial restrictions have not hindered other non-campaigning activities, such as Labour Live. Such a decision to not support the staff of the Labour party while losing money, that could have been used on the staff, on events such as Labour Live is not in keeping with the Party’s history and principles – putting the workers first.
The CLP would also like to note its anger in the timing of the decision. Staff members were informed of the changes a week before Christmas. If a private company was to act with such disregard we would expect the Labour Party and Trade Unions fight for the workers.
The CLP/this meeting mandates the CLP executive to write to Jennie Formby, Jeremy Corbyn calling for the reversal of this decision. Along with writing to the recognised Unions for Labour Party staff (GMB & Unite) expressing our solidarity with the workers.