From defending the equality rights of our diverse membership to influencing politicians in their attitude to public services and ousting the BNP from British politics, UNISON’s political fund is put to good use every day of the year.
All of UNISON’s campaigning work is financed by the political fund, a percentage of members’ subscriptions – if they choose – which is used to convey our message to fellow workers, politicians and the public at large.
Such funds are a legal requirement for unions wishing to take part in political activity – and NDC will see the launch of this year’s political fund ballot, when members decide if they want the fund to continue.
The ballot is required by law and must be held at least every 10 years.
The last vote was in 2005, when members voted overwhelmingly to retain the political fund.
Although not required until 2015, the ballot has been brought forward to this year to avoid any clash with the general election.
“This decision is one of the most important our members have to make,” says general secretary Dave Prentis.
“Campaigning costs a lot of money, whether we’re lobbying MPs, leafleting, organising rallies and demonstrations or producing advertisements.
“That’s why we need the political fund: to have a voice in the world – a voice that stands up for public services, for our workers and the services they provide.
“A vote for the fund is really a vote to maintain the union as an effective fighting union for all of us.”
UNISON’s political fund has two components.
When members join they choose whether to pay into the Affiliated Political Fund (APF), the General Political Fund (GPF), both or neither.
The APF supports the union’s campaign work inside the Labour Party.
The GPF is used to campaign to all policy makers, regardless of party, in support of our members and public services.
It has been used to:
- organise and take part in national demonstrations, such as the Protect Our Pensions strike and rallies in 2011, the Save our NHS protest at the Tory Party conference in 2013, and the days of protest against the dire state of local government pay this year;
- secure important changes to legislation, such as the Equalities Act and legal protection around the two-tier workforce;
- fund our campaign against the far right, including our long associations with Hope Not Hate and Show Racism the Red Card, and the successful marginalisation of the BNP;
- win concessionary bus fares;
- push the cause of affordable housing to the top of the political agenda;
- support a range of equality related activity, such as funding mardi gras, pride, mela and barrio festivals, and work with the Fawcett Society.
And the GPF does not just support national campaigns.
All sorts of local projects benefit from funding, such as the Edinburgh Not for Sale campaign against privatisation of the city’s public services, the prolonged action over pay by Southampton council workers and the recent campaign to prevent the sell-off of George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton.
A recent innovation is the spot bid, which was introduced initially for projects related to the Worth It campaign.
Branches can bid for up to £500 for a particular campaign activity, and those bids will be fast tracked. There were 40 spot bids in February and March.
Political fund ballot schedule
27 October-5 November: Ballot papers will be dispatched with the autumn edition of U magazine.
6-28 November: the ballot period.
Early December 2014: Results are declared and members informed.