Prospect Political Fund







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’s political fund

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.

Political fund campaign 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.

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BECTU members back Prospect merger



BECTU members back Prospect merger

BECTU members have given their overwhelming backing to the proposed merger of the union with Prospect.

Vote Yes graphic used during ballot campaign

In a momentous decision, BECTU members have backed the proposed merger with Prospect. The ballot closed at 12 noon today 30 August 2016. BECTU issued the following press statement.

30 August 2016
For immediate use

BECTU members vote overwhelming for Prospect merger


BECTU members have backed the planned merger with Prospect, the union for public and private sector professionals, by posting an overwhelming vote in favour. The ballot closed today 30 August 2016 with 83.4% of members voting in favour and 16.6% against.

BECTU represents staff and freelancers across the UK’s nations and regions in broadcasting, film, theatre, the arts and digital media, with recognition agreements taking in a host of employers, large and small, including the BBC, ITV and Royal Opera House. The union’s freelance members work at all levels of film, TV and commercials production and in live events.

The merger will come into effect on 1 January 2017.

BECTU will become the largest sector within the merged Prospect union when its 27,000 members join with 14,000 members in Prospect’s Communications Media and Digital division, where BT is the biggest of several employers. The new 40,000-plus sector will continue to have industrial autonomy within the new union, with its own executive reporting to the union-wide and enlarged Prospect executive.

Commenting on the members’ vote Gerry Morrissey, BECTU’s general secretary, said:

“Today’s decision by BECTU members will strengthen the new BECTU sector going forward. The pooling of our resources and experience with those of our new colleagues in Prospect will enable BECTU to provide an even better service for members; we’ll also be able to reach out to even more of the 1000s of creative sector workers across media and entertainment who need advice and representation.”

Support for the merger became official union policy at BECTU’s conference in May this year after two years of talks and internal consultations. The central rationale for the merger was to strengthen the union’s foundations given the long-standing deficit in the staff pension scheme, an issue which challenges the majority of organisations with established defined benefit pension arrangements.

With additional resources , BECTU, as part of Prospect, will be freed up to build on its organising success. Membership of BECTU grew 12% in the two years to 2015, a proud, hard won achievement for a specialist union, providing services to both staff and freelancers across a broad sector.

Today, Prospect is 115,000 strong and supports members across a large swathe of the public and private sectors. In the new union, BECTU will retain its own identity and its own website having established a distinctive character in the media and entertainment industries  during its 25 years.

Mike Clancy, general secretary of Prospect, said:

 “Joining forces puts us in the strongest possible position to deal with the challenges we face as well as securing the best possible service for the combined membership.

“The two unions have much in common, not least in our expertise in the fields of communications and media, and we will quickly adapt to working together, with both organisations being the product of previous successful mergers.

Gerry Morrissey continued:

“The NEC and I are proud of what we, our members and reps, have achieved in 25 years of organising and campaigning. However, very soon, together with our colleagues in Prospect, we will begin building on our current strengths to create a new union which workers in our sectors, both new and established, will join with enthusiasm knowing that through workplace organisation we can improve their working lives.”


For more information contact the BECTU press office on 020 7346 0900. BECTU members who would like to read the full statement from ERS should log in to view this document.

Note for editors:

Prospect – Read Prospect’s statement on the vote.


BECTU’s History

BECTU, formed in 1991, draws on the organising skill and sacrifice of many groups of workers. The commitment of the union’s representatives and members is central to the media and entertainment sectors we know today.

BECTU has emerged from several predecessor unions:

  • ABS (Association of Broadcasting Staff) was formed in 1956, having been previously the BBC Staff (Wartime) Association (formed 1940) and the BBC Staff Association (formed 1945).
  • ACT (Association of Cine-Technicians) was formed in June 1933 and became ACTT (Association of Cinematograph Television and allied Technicians) in March 1956, two years after the introduction of commercial television.
  • NATKE (National Association of Theatrical and Kine Employees) was formed in 1937, having been previously the National Association of Theatrical Employees (formed 1905), the National Union of Theatrical Stage Employees (1901), the Theatrical and Music Hall Workers Union (1899), and the United Kingdom Theatrical and Music Hall Operatives Union (1890).
  • NATTKE (National Association of Theatrical Television and Kine Employees) was formed through a belated name change in 1970 reflecting organisation in television.
  • ABS and NATTKE merged to form BETA (Broadcasting and Entertainment Trades Alliance) in January 1984.
  • BECTU, the result of a merger between the ACTT and BETA, came into existence on 2 January 1991, as the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Technicians Union. It changed its name (but not its initials) to the present form – Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union – in November of that year.
  • The FAA (Film Artistes Association) was formed in 1927. It transferred its engagements to BECTU in July 1995.
  • In 2012, BECTU celebrated its 21st anniversary.