Campaigning in elections
This policy sets outs the procedures and minimum standards of behaviour required of all members when campaigning in union elections.
A failure to comply with the behaviour standards set out in this policy is likely to be a breach of rule 4.8.4 of the union's rules and may result in disqualification, removal or other penalty in accordance with the union's disciplinary rules.
The Equity Council welcomes campaigning in Equity elections as a valuable part of the union's democracy. Members of Equity have the right to be actively involved in elections without fear of personal attacks, negative campaigning tactics or misuse of union resource. This policy statement is not intended to limit or interfere in the rights of members to express their views or to campaign on issues which they believe to be of relevance to the work and activities of their union.
a. Use of union resources
No resources of the union may be used to support the candidacy of any member or members unless an Equity branch or national, industrial, specialist or equality committee has made a decision to nominate a candidate or candidates or to support the candidacy of a member or members.
If an eligible branch or committee wishes to take a decision to nominate a candidate or candidates or to support the candidacy of a member or members, any such proposal must appear on the agenda circulated in advance of the meeting and the member or members should be informed of the proposal. The decision will be made by a simple majority of those present and voting, in the same way as for other decisions, and must be recorded in the minutes. A branch or committee may report the fact of such a decision, but nothing further, through an Equity branch or committee newsletter. The fact of and reasons for the decision may be reported on the Equity website.
If a member is supported by a branch or committee in the way described above, they are entitled to make that support known in any election materials they produce themselves which do not use union resources.
These are the only circumstances under which the resources of the union may be used in support of the candidacy of any member or members in any Equity elections. In all other circumstances, the resources of the union may not be used.
Resources of the union include, but are not limited to:
- union publications or official circulations,
- union finances or equipment, e.g. computers, printers, photocopiers, telephone, fax, postage or franking machines,
- staff resources.
The areas of the Equity website which are open to any individual member to contribute are, for the purposes of these guidelines, not deemed to be union resources.
b. Membership data
No access to the union's membership database or any other form of membership records will be afforded to any candidate, except where that member has access to membership data by way of holding office within the union.
If any member by way of holding office within the union is in possession of any membership data, for example as a result of conducting a branch or committee circulation, that information may not be used in support of the candidacy of any member or group of members, other than as specified in (a) above. Unauthorised use of membership data may be a breach of the Data Protection Act.
c. Use of members' names
Other than in (a) above:
- i No member or group of members should include the name of another member as a candidate on a published list of candidates without the expressed, written consent of the member concerned.
- No candidate, or group of candidates, should evoke the name of another member or members in support of their candidature without the expressed, written consent of the member concerned.
- No publications, for example advertisements, leaflets, websites, emails, letters, social media posts or videos should have attached to them names of candidates or, as an indication of support, the names of members unless the candidate or the members have had the opportunity of seeing and approving the content of such publications before they are issued.
d. Personal attacks
Members should engage in Equity elections in a spirit of comradely debate, and, at all times must comply with the rules of behaviour provided for in the rulebook. Specifically, members must not engage in behaviour contrary to rule 4.8.4 or otherwise behave in such a manner that is prejudicial to the interests of the union.
It is reasonable to criticise the actions or policies of the union as a whole, or to criticise the proposals of another candidates as part of a campaign. It is not reasonable to personally attack candidates, other members or members of staff.
While it is recognised that the actions of others, including the supporters of a particular candidate, may be outside the control of that candidate, candidates must not directly or indirectly engage in campaigning that breaches this policy or authorises or permits others to do so on their behalf.
Negative campaigning is not permitted. Negative campaigning is the spreading of false or negative information beyond the scope of fair comment relating to a candidate or candidates, or other campaign tactics designed to damage the candidacy of another candidate, rather than to make the positive case for one's own candidacy.
Encouraging or facilitating others to do the same (or failing to distance oneself from those participating in such actions) may also be an instance of negative campaigning.
Candidates or campaigns responsible for negative campaigning may be subject to disciplinary action.
These elections are governed by the Equity Rule Book. The elections of the Equity Council and President are also governed by the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.
Running as a candidate
Requirements of candidates
Those wishing to stand for election must complete the nomination form (whether online or in print) and return it to the member of staff responsible for the election by the final deadline as determined by the Council. Generally, this member of staff will be the Governance Officer, acting on behalf of the General Secretary.
Union elections operate on the basis of two deadlines — a provisional deadline, and a final deadline.
The provisional deadline will occur several days before the final deadline. Members who request support from staff or submit their nomination ahead of the provisional deadline will be provided with the full range of support that staff are able to provide.
Members who submit their nomination after the provisional deadline but before the final deadline will still be permitted to enter the election, providing their nomination is valid. However, they will not be provided with the support of staff as outlined below, due to time constraints.
Members are therefore encouraged (but not required) to submit their nomination before the provisional deadline.
In order for a nomination to be valid:
- it must be completed by submitting the recognised form or by submitting the nomination via the online process provided by the union. Online nominations are the standard format, but with paper nomination forms available on request.
- it must be submitted by the final deadline.
- it must include the name and membership number of members proposing/seconding your candidacy (as required under the Rules).
- where applicable, the members proposing/seconding must confirm they wish to do so by the final deadline (by clicking the relevant link or responding to union staff when queried).
Along with your nomination, candidates have the option of submitting a statement and a headshot. These materials will be included in the election materials provided to all members.
In order for a statement to be valid, it must:
- be submitted by the final deadline.
- be within the word count.
- not contain any personal attacks or negative campaigning.
- not reference the support of anyone without their prior consent.
- not use formatting such as bold, italic, underlining, etc. Members may indicate their preferred paragraph spacing, but this will ultimately be at the discretion of the member of staff preparing the materials, as it is dependent on the space available.
- not otherwise breach elections guidelines (e.g. by containing potentially defamatory claims, or information which may be in breach data protection, etc.)
In order for a headshot to be valid, it must:
- be an image of the candidate.
- not contain any identifiable images of other persons.
- not include words which breach any of the guidance on statements above.
- be in a format and size which the member of staff preparing the materials is able to use. The presentation of the photo is at the discretion of staff.
Following a candidate's successful nomination for election, candidates may be offered the option of posting a video on the union's official Youtube channel:
- election videos should be a maximum of three minutes long. Any longer and viewers may start to switch off.
- candidates need to provide a full and accurate transcript of their video. This is so we can add subtitles to the video for accessibility. Candidates are welcome to add the subtitles themselves if they are able, otherwise the communications team can add the subtitles if a full transcript is provided. If a member is not able to create a transcript due to a disability, the communications team will be able to assist.
- videos should be submitted by the deadline set by the communications team, which will be ahead of the main election email going out to all members. This is to make sure that the videos get maximum exposure. We find that videos uploaded after the main communications email push receive far fewer views.
- videos should be filmed in landscape.
- the videos will be uploaded to the Equity YouTube channel and will be publicly accessible. They will be removed at a set period after the election. List of video formats supported by YouTube.
Following a candidate's successful nomination for election, candidates may be offered the option of taking part in hustings organised by part of the union (e.g. a branch or committee). Branches and committees are welcome to organise hustings, but must follow these guidelines:
- the Chair should be independent, meaning that they are not a supporter or an opponent (either publicly or privately) of any of the candidates involved.
- the Chair should conduct the hustings impartially, and should take care not to favour or disadvantage any of the candidates with their comments or when setting the format.
- the Chair should use their best efforts to give everyone a fair chance. It is accepted that there will be small discrepancies, but as far as possible, candidates should be afforded an equal amount of time to speak in total (but not necessarily on each question).
- the order in which candidates are invited to speak should be decided fairly, in advance, at the discretion of the organisers. For example, it could be decided by lots, or alphabetically. The order may be fixed or it may vary throughout the course of the event.
- when choosing who to invite, the organisers of the hustings should take care not to unreasonably exclude any of the candidates from taking part.
- it is not required to hold the hustings on a date/time which all the candidates can attend, though it is suggested that the organisers choose a date/time which is likely to be appropriate for the candidates and members attending. If candidates cannot attend, it is suggested (but not required) to offer them the chance to submit a short video to be shown at the event instead.
- candidates cannot be required to participate in hustings.
- hustings can be conducted online or in person, providing the members the hustings is directed at (e.g. members within the locality of a local branch, or represented by a particular committee) are not unreasonably excluded from attending. Limitation on numbers due to size of venue does not constitute unreasonable exclusion, but the process of registering attendees should be fair, as far as possible.
- The following format is offered as a suggestion, but is not required:
- Chair's introduction (e.g. 5-10 minutes introducing the nature and format of the hustings, including the Safe Spaces statement, emphasising that personal attacks will not be tolerated.)
- Candidate speeches (e.g. two minutes for each candidate to introduce their candidacy.)
- Q&A session (it is recommended that attendees be asked to send in questions in advance, but questions may also be taken at the event. All questions are at the Chair's discretion. The Chair should take care to allow candidates a roughly equal amount of time to speak in total, but whether each candidate has the opportunity to respond to every question will be at the Chair's discretion. It is recommended to put a time limit on answers, e.g. two minutes.)
- Chair's conclusion (e.g. 5 minutes thanking the candidates, the attendees, and reminding everyone of the method and timetable for voting.)
Where prospective candidates request support from staff or submit their nomination in advance of the provisional deadline, staff should take reasonable steps to support members in registering their nomination.
This support may include:
- responding to general queries on standing for election.
- help with submitting a nomination.
- checking whether a candidate's statement is within the required word count.
- checking whether members proposing/seconding the candidate are entitled to do so.
- chasing members proposing/seconding the candidate for confirmation that they are willing to propose/second the candidate.
- offering a second opportunity to submit a statement which is over the word count, or otherwise breaches the elections guidelines.
- providing support on submitting a video for the union's Youtube channel.
- sending the candidate a proof of the statement, as it will appear in the elections materials.
If members do not submit their nomination before the provisional deadline, staff may not be able to provide support as described above. This does not mean that members will not be able to stand, but it does mean if anything is wrong with the application, there may not be the opportunity to fix it.
Support provided by staff will not include:
- proofing statements.
- making edits to the proof (provision of the proof is to confirm the statement and photo have been correctly transcribed only).
- providing advice on statements or how to present yourself as a candidate.
- providing unreasonable levels of information, e.g. membership information or research. Members should be responsible for their own research.
- making edits to statements after the deadline (unless to correct a mistake made by staff).
- taking photographs.
• transcribing videos.