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About UCU's political fund

29 April 2022

Information on how UCU uses its political fund.

What is a political fund?

Since 1913 trade unions who wished to be involved in activity that might be deemed political had to ballot their members on the establishment of a political fund.

A notice to members in Great Britain who joined the union on or after 1 March 2018 [86kb] about their right to give a withdrawal notice in respect of the political fund. Issued to members on 19 April 2024.

In 1984 the Conservative government changed the law to make unions ballot every 10 years. Although at first this could be a workplace ballot, they changed the law again to make postal ballots compulsory.  

UCU last balloted members on the retention of its political fund in March-April 2018.  Members voted to retain the fund.

Information Members can opt in to or out of making contributions to the fund.  This can be done via My UCU or as otherwise described in the political fund rules (available below). Contributions are set at one per cent of national subscriptions. 

If you choose not to contribute to the political fund you shall not be excluded from any benefits of the union or placed in any respect, either directly or indirectly, under a disability or at a disadvantage as compared to other members of the union.

Does the fund mean supporting a particular political party?

Some trade unions use their political funds to support a particular political party, usually Labour.

However UCU operates a fund which expressly does not contribute to any political party. All our political fund income is used to promote the interests of UCU members, campaigning and lobbying irrespective of party political affiliation. This means membership of UCU does NOT of itself entitle you to a vote in, for example, a political party leadership election.

What can the fund be used for?

Employers spend millions of pounds lobbying government and politicians to make them see things their way. The UCU political fund helps redress that balance.

For many of our members the fact that the government is the main funder of further and higher education means that many of our campaigns such as for better pay and pensions; more funding; or against privatisation could be deemed political.

However even workplace campaigns such as against casualisation of contracts in FE and HE have a 'political' context and might require UCU to lobby politicians or produce briefing materials for parliament.

When campaigning to defend jobs, or improve pay and pensions we want to be able to be as effective as possible, which means being able to undertake political lobbying.

Election periods are an important time to build and strengthen our campaigns and we need to be free to continue these activities during these times.

During election periods we need to be able to lobby, to provide information to candidates, to inform members of candidates who support our campaigns or to argue against parties of the far right, such as the BNP.

However, lobbying and campaigning takes place all year round and not just in Westminster but also in all the devolved institutions. For our voice to be heard we need a political fund.

UCU's political fund rules can be found below.

Last updated: 17 April 2024