Author: Richard Evans, Chief Executive Officer and General Secretary
This update for members concerns our progress towards establishing a political fund. It highlights communications about the outcome of the ballot process; provides an update on the implications of the Trade Union Act 2016 concerning political funds and gives important news on how we intend to prepare to begin receiving contributions to the fund.
Members will recall that the principal reasons for seeking to establish a political fund for the SoR lay in the provisions of the Lobbying Act and the need to assure the organisation’s influence as a campaigning organisation.
In the briefings circulated during the run-up to the Society’s Political Fund Ballot in February, we explained that as a result of the government’s Trade Union Bill 2015 we were planning to operate our fund (if approved by members) in line with proposals set out in the Bill.
Specifically, we expected that voluntary contributions to the fund would follow a process where members would ‘Opt-in’ to payment.
As the TU Bill progressed through the House of Lords in March, a range of amendments were sent back to the Commons that included a proposal that only new members of a union would be required to complete an ‘Opt-in’ form and existing political funds could continue to collect contributions from members unless they chose to complete an exemption or ‘Opt-out’ form.
Members can be reassured that the SoR will notattempt to collect contributions towards the Society Political Fund from any member unless they ‘Opt-in’ to confirm their willingness to contribute.
The Act allows SoR to develop secure electronic forms for both ‘Opt-in’ and ‘Opt-out’ or exemption purposes.
We await further clarification on this point but in the meantime are working with our software providers to both develop the secure electronic forms and to fully integrate them with our membership database. The ability to provide and process secure electronic forms will help streamline the administration involved and minimise operational costs.
As a result of the delay in publishing the Act and the unexpected outcomes we now expect to begin collecting contributions from members who have completed an ‘Opt-in’ form in October this year. Further regular updates on the progress of the project will follow to keep members fully informed.
More immediately, we need formally to publish our ballot result, inform members of the location of the Scrutineer’s Report on the conduct of the Ballot and provide the ‘Notice to Members’ of their right to exempt themselves from the collection process for the fund.
An exemption or ‘Opt-out’ form with the specified wording is available for printing out and sending by post to SoR HQ. This is a legal right for any member.
However, I must stress that when we have our electronic forms ready, members will be requested specifically to ‘Opt-in’ if they wish to contribute. Any member who knows now that they do not intend to contribute can help minimise the administration by waiting until the secure electronic ‘Opt-out’ or exemption form is ready for use.
We do, of course, fully recognise the right of such members to inform the union now of their view using the paper exemption form and any forms received in this way will be recorded appropriately.
It remains for me to thank you for your continued patience while we implement and bring in to operation the Society’s Political Fund in full compliance with current legislation.
CEO and General Secretary