The NEC have reluctantly decided that our Union needs a significant rise in membership subscription rates and will be placing a motion before our National Conference in March seeking approval for that. We recognise this may prompt concerns and think it important that we set out the reasons for this NEC view clearly and transparently in advance of Conference.
We have held ISU subscription rates at low levels for many years now. There has been only a single £1 per month increase (in December 2013) since the turn of the century. As a consequence, ISU subscriptions represent exceptional value and are amongst the cheapest rates anywhere to be found. Our current main rate is £10 per month. Most Unions have higher rates than this – for example the PCS charge up to £13.72 per month – and many more than double our subscription rates, for example Prospect charge up to £23.50 and FDA up to £33.75 per month.
We have been happy to hold subscriptions lower than other Unions, not least because we realise that many members have seen no meaningful pay rise since 2010. However, there comes a point when we must face realities. Cost inflation is a fact of life and current subscription rates do not generate sufficient funds to meet those increased costs. In each of the last two years outgoings have significantly exceeded income. This is simply because our monthly unit cost per member has now risen above £10 per head and the trajectory continues resolutely upwards.
We really cannot do more to limit expenditure without reducing membership services. For example the SDA/AHW scheme, which has supported many members over the years, is one of our principal heads of expenditure. Last year we spent almost £40,000 on this. Similarly, the Death Benefit Scheme cost almost £15,000 in insurance premiums last year. Although savings may be possible by restricting access to scheme benefits we are very loathe to countenance anything with such membership impact. On the contrary we would prefer to improve benefits but cannot do so without generating more revenue from increased subscriptions.
ISU finances have been managed prudently over many years – we know it’s your money, not ours and we handle it accordingly – and we do hold strong reserves. However, if we continue to live on our savings, then a future NEC will have very much more bleak news to give you all. We need to do what any responsible organisation does and ensure proper balance between income and expenditure.
We cannot sleep at the wheel when the financial health of our Union is at stake. Therefore, the NEC have resolved to address this issue decisively now.
We can no longer justify retaining the lower AIO/AO subscription rate, which was set at a time when there was a significant pay differential between AIOs and IOs/BFOs. This differential has now been significantly eroded. For example, an AIO on the London scale can now earn more than an IO/BFO on the national scale. AIO/AO members receive the same benefits as other members – and cost as much to represent as anyone else. The NEC have, therefore, concluded that a single membership rate of subscription should now be applied.
The proposed rate is to be £12 per member per month. This rate will balance the annual accounts while permitting some modest room both for the continued cost rises we anticipate and for growth in membership services. If this proposal is adopted, the NEC would not expect to seek further increases in membership subscriptions for at least 5 years barring the most exceptional, unforeseen circumstances.
We very much recognise the sensitivity of this issue and therefore are very happy to answer any questions anyone may have. These can be addressed either to Andy.Cole@theisu.co.uk or Mark.Gribbin@theisu.co.uk