Some trade unions have established 'political funds', which they use to finance their political activities. Where individual union members pay subscriptions into a political fund, via the so-called political levy, the employer often collects it at the same time as the member's other union subscriptions.
Northern Ireland trade union members are legally exempt from contributing to a trade union's political fund. Any member who wishes for the political levy to apply to him must 'contract in' to the political fund. This requirement applies to all Northern Ireland union members, regardless of where their union is headquartered.
Where a member does not contract in, or having contracted in subsequently contracts out, he or she is exempt from contributing to the political fund. Any deduction by a trade union of an amount to be paid to a political fund, without a written 'contracting in' notice is unlawful.
A member who initially contracts in and then subsequently decides to contract out must do so in writing.