Automatic union contributions could soon be scrapped under Government plans

30 September, 2015

The Government recently announced that it soon hopes to put an end to public sector workers being able to automatically pay their subscriptions to trade unions from their salaries.

‘Check off’, as the practice is known, gives union members the option to pay their contributions through payroll, meaning that payments are sorted at source.

The system was first introduced at a time when many employees did not have access to a bank account, digital payment facilities or the option to set up direct debits. As a result, it has recently faced criticism for being an outdated practice.

Matthew Hancock, minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, recently stated that public resources should not be used to help with the collection of trade union subscriptions.

Mr Hancock said: “It’s time to get rid of this outdated practice and modernise the relationship between trade unions and their members.

“By ending check off we are bringing greater transparency to employees – making it easier for them to choose whether or not to pay subscriptions and which union to join.”

However, the plan to end check off has not been welcomed by unions, with Gail Cartmail – Unite’s Assistant General Secretary – calling it “spiteful”.

Ms Cartmail said: “It is a crude attempt to starve trade unions of money, money that is then used every day to promote training, workplace safety and hold up decent pay for millions of working people throughout the UK.”

She went on to say: “This is nothing other than unnecessary interference by a Government that has not got a clue about the reality of working life and the vital role unions have in workers’ lives.”

The possible scrapping of ‘check off’ was made clear after the announcement of the Trade Union Bill 2015-16, which also incorporates targets to place restrictions on strike action as well as allowing greater freedom to use temporary workers to fulfil the duties of any striking staff.

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