The Forthcoming Political Fund Ballot and Funding New Labour

Back to all Motions

2004 National Delegate Conference
25 June 2004

By March 2005 UNISON has to legally ballot the whole membership on whether they wish to have a political fund or not. This fund, with its unique arrangement of two sections, affiliated and general, enables the union to donate monies to political parties and to fund campaigns deemed to be political.

Conference believes that it is important that the union should continue to have a political fund to ensure that our voice is heard.

Under the current rules of the union the only party that the union can currently fund is the Labour party.

We deplore the failure of the Labour government since 1997 to remove the statutory requirement that trade unions ballot every ten years. We call on the government to remove this requirement immediately.

We recognise, however, that we will have to organise this ballot and call on UNISON members to vote Yes in the ballot reflecting the decisions of National Delegate Conference 2003, Your Union Your Voice – Use It Don’t Lose it.

Conference notes that UNISON has won overwhelming support within the TUC and Labour party for our policy positions on pensions, PFI and ending the two-tier workforce. Yet the government has failed to act on these policies and instead has pursued unacceptable measures such as foundation hospitals and top-up fees for students. Conference applauds the recent efforts of both political fund sections to mobilise parliamentary opposition to government proposals, in line with union policy.

Conference recognises that there is a real danger that the members see the Political Fund ballot as simply an endorsement of continuing to fund New Labour and may not support it, leaving us without a political fund.

We need to state the gains of record investment in public services, the national minimum wage, devolution and the lowest unemployment levels for a generation.

Conference believes that the best strategy to secure a large majority in this ballot will be to continue to use both sections of our political fund in accordance with our rules, and to vigorously promote the interests of our members.

We note that the Labour government has, on a number of issues, acted contrary to the policies of UNISON, the TUC and the Labour party. We do not therefore believe that it would be a wise strategy solely to promote our relationship with the Labour party and instead the campaign for a Yes vote should explain:

1)why UNISON members need a political voice;

2)the impact of political decisions on the lives of UNISON members and their families both as citizens and public service workers;

3)that a political fund is required to enable UNISON to campaign effectively.

Conference therefore instructs the National Executive Council to devote sufficient resources to a Vote Yes campaign in conjunction with regions, branches, service groups, self-organised groups, young members and retired members. This campaign should emphasise the need for trade unions to have an independent political voice and make it clear to members that the political fund ballot is not about affiliation to the Labour Party.