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UNISON Political Fund Briefing


The purpose of this briefing is to explain to branches, activists and members how UNISON's Political Fund operates in the context of the forthcoming Political Fund Ballot.

Background to Union Political Funds

Trade unions have always been involved in politics. But it was only made lawful for them to do so just over a century ago. The Trade Union Act 1913 allowed unions to pursue political objects if they had established a political fund approved by a ballot of their members.

In 1984 the Conservative government introduced new legislation which required unions to hold a new ballot every ten years to keep their political funds. The motives of the Thatcher Government backfired with the membership of every union voting to keep their political funds. Ten years later, in the mid 1990's, the ballots were again a resounding success with an average of 82 per cent yes vote. This is now the third round of political fund ballots, the second for UNISON and hopefully the last.

UNISON's Political Fund

UNISON is unique in having a political fund with two sections:

  • UNISON Labour Link (the Affiliated Political Fund (APF) )
  • The General Political Fund (GPF)

This arrangement is the result of the 1993 merger between COHSE and NUPE, which were affiliated to the Labour Party, and NALGO, which was politically independent. The Certification Officer permitted the continuation of what are in effect two political funds and the arrangement was overwhelming endorsed in the 1995 ballot.

In 2003 UNISON National Delegate Conference overwhelmingly reaffirmed its support for the political fund structure following a union wide consultation process.

UNISON Labour Link (APF)

UNISON Labour Link campaigns for members' interests through affiliation to the Labour Party, at UK, Scottish and local level. Those paying the affiliated levy can participate in Labour Link activities and through our representatives in the Party make their contribution on policy and organisational issues. They receive regular Labour Link information and they are able to for the Labour leadership team nationally and here in Scotland. UNISON Labour Link also:

  • Has a voice in policy making, elections and links with both Houses of Parliament, Scottish Parliament and European Parliament.

  • Has an elected UK committee and regional structures.

  • And has a group of UNISON MPs and MSPs .

UNISON Labour Link works closely with our group of MPs and MSPs. Many of them are members of UNISON or have a keen interest in public services. UNISON Labour Link also work closely with a number of Labour MEPs so that our member's views are well represented in Europe.

General Political Fund (GPF)

UNISON uses the General Political Fund (GPF) to pay for campaigning at branch, regional and national level. The GPF is also used for research and lobbying in the Houses of Parliament, the Scottish Parliament and the European Parliament. The link with Parliament is imperative for UNISON's activities. It means that UNISON has voice in influencing both Government policy and legislation in these parliaments.

UNISON campaigns hard to defend jobs and services and to promote equality, defend pensions, and protect health and safety of members. Campaigns like these would not be effective without the GPF. The GPF is independent of any political party and it has a national elected committee. UNISON Scotland has used the GPF to campaign for:

  • The YES/YES Campaign for a Scottish Parliament.

  • Campaigning against cuts, privatisation and attacks on the NHS and Local Government
  • Campaigned against the BNP this year in the European Elections.

Defending the rights of our Members

A large amount of UNISON's day-to-day campaigning work is paid for from the Political Fund. Here are some recent examples of how UNISON Scotland has used the political fund over recent years:

  • Revitalise our Public Services campaign
  • Lobbying and campaigning against the two-tier workforce
  • Supporting campaigns against PFI, outsourcing and cuts in services
  • Fighting racism and discrimination
  • Opposing the far right in local, Scottish and European elections
  • Defending the National Health Service
  • Defending public service pensions
  • Promoting training, skills and investment in staff
  • Campaigning for improved employment rights
  • Lobbying for equal pay

APF and GPF Campaigning Together

We have to campaign vociferously for things we believe are right and in our members interest's. Over the last year the APF and GPF has been used for legislative campaigns such as:

  • Water Privatisation
  • Breastfeeding Act
  • Energy Act
  • Correctional Agency
  • Assaults on Staff
  • Anti- smoking Bill

The APF and GPF were used jointly in these campaigns. In many cases the GPF was used to fund the research and campaign materials, Labour Link provided the direct political influence, a partnership that maximises our campaign strength.

Action for Branches

We have to campaign vociferously for things we believe are right and in our members interests. We have to talk to politicians and ministers as well as employers. We can only do that effectively for our members if we have a political fund. It is imperative members are encouraged to participate in this ballot and to vote "yes".

A high turn out of "yes" votes will guarantee that UNISON will still have a voice to defend member's interests in the political arena. It is therefore essential that our members know how important our political fund is and how vital it is for them to vote.

  • Dispatch of ballot papers: 9, 10, 11 February 2005
  • Close of balloting period: Friday 11 March 2005
  • Publication of results: Monday 14th March 2005


Further Information