One of the aspects of the BECTU merger with Prospect that worried me was the fact that Prospect isn’t affiliated to the Labour Party. However, it does have a political fund.
This issue is covered in an article about the merger in the current issue of BECTU’s magazine, Stage, Screen and Radio, and it seems I wasn’t alone.
Prospect’s political independence was the cause of much debate within BECTU, but Mike Clancy points to successive member surveys and qualitative evidence “which time and time again shows it is a strong selling point.
“What are members want us to do is hold Government to account, speak to parties across the political spectrum, and influence their policies, including that of the devolved governments. We are politically independent but politically influential. We have a Political Fund, we spend money on political campaigning, and we have a strong record of influence and forcing people to listen. Political lobbying on behalf of our members will continue and I hope be enhanced.”
He adds, however: “if we are to engage with the Conservatives, they have to show they mean it – a legislative programme that ensures that our voice is heard because only unions have a role in the workplace in that respect.”
He believes that the new Prime Minister’s interest in workers’ representatives on boards, even if it happened, “will be highly symbolic and largely gesture politics.
“Without a representative voice in the workplace we won’t solve productivity issues, we’ll have employers behaving in a Victorian manner”
Prospect is politically independent – we are not affiliated to any political party: our rules expressly forbid this.
We do, however, have a political fund.
As a campaigning organisation, we often carry out activities that are defined as ‘political’. This ranges from writing letters to MPs to lobbying party conferences. Since 1992 the law has defined such activity as ‘political’, and without a political fund this activity would be unlawful. A political fund is therefore an insurance policy to protect Prospect from a legal challenge that it is engaging in unlawful ‘political activity.’
Our political fund is financed by a small levy from each member’s subscriptions – currently 60p per year.
Any member can opt out of paying the levy. On first joining Prospect, new members receive a leaflet about the political fund plus an opt-out form.
By law Prospect has to ballot every member on continuing the fund every ten years. The latest ballot ran from 4-27 March 2013.
As a campaigning organisation, Prospect engages with politicians and political parties in a number of ways, from writing letters to individual MPs to lobbying party conferences. Since 1984 the law has defined such activity as ‘political’. Unless a union has a political fund this activity could be ruled unlawful in the courts. A political fund is therefore an insurance policy to protect the union from a legal challenge that it is engaging in unlawful ‘political activity.’
Prospect (like several of its predecessor unions) has had a political fund since 2003. Our fund is financed by a small levy from each member’s subscription – currently 5p a month. Any member can opt out of contributing to the fund.