The law requires trade unions to have a political fund if their aims and objectives are to include political activity and campaigning.
BECTU's rulebook sets out the rules governing the operation of the political fund.
BECTU needs a political fund to defend members' interests in Parliament, in Europe and on all matters of government policy and legislation. Without such a fund, we could be prevented from lobbying to change policies or legislation which affect members' working lives. Some of the issues on which BECTU has engaged in political lobbying in recent years include:
- legislation on employment rights and statutory TU recognition;
- health and safety, equal opportunities, pensions, tax and benefits;
- BBC licence fee;
- the future of public service broadcasting and regional ITV;
- arts and theatre funding;
- film production tax incentives;
- the work permit system and its replacement;
- the opt-out from the 48-hour working week;
- upfront fees to agents;
- copyright and intellectual property rights;
- party political broadcasts by BNP.
In line with the democratic decision of its members, BECTU also uses the political fund to affiliate to the Labour Party Only a minority of political fund spending is for party political purposes. The union affiliates to the Labour Party at a level of 7,300 members rather than in respect of our entire membership of approximately 25,000.
Our affiliation does not reflect agreement with all Labour policies. It gives us enhanced access to politicians and the ability to be strongly critical when necessary.
Only trade unions are legally constrained by the need to have a political fund. Employers and other lobby groups have no equivalent restrictions on political spending. Our political fund is therefore necessary to allow us to counter employer arguments to government and Parliament.
All members of BECTU (except for those based outside Britain in Northern Ireland, the Irish Republic, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and overseas) contribute to the political fund unless they choose not to do so.
Where a member chooses not to contribute, ie to contract out, a Political Fund Exemption Notice must be completed. A copy of the form can be obtained from Tracey Hunt; the form can also be returned by email.
Each member who does contribute has £1.56 per annum (3p a week) of their ordinary BECTU subscription transferred to the political fund. It is not an extra levy. Members based in Britain who have contracted-out are entitled to a refund of £1.56 per annum (payable once every two years).