Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Francis Maude calls on Civil Service to end "check off" for Unions

News has reached me that Francis Maude has written to all Civil Service Departments instructing them to consider ending the "check off" system with trade unions. This is the system whereby union members subscriptions are collected at "source" by being deducted from their wages. Whilst the text of the letter remains unseen it is believed that any such action is "optional".

I understand that in the largest part of the Civil Service, the Department of Work and Pensions Secretary of State Ian Duncan Smith has instructed management to end it within 6 weeks. 

Other Departments are understood to have until the end of January to report back to Maude on what they are planning to do.

This will hit unions hard, especially the largest of them the PCS which is in clear financial difficulties as seen by the union being unable for the first time not to have issued a dairy to its members, causing consternation amongst many who wonder where all their subscriptions go.

Hence the option to merge with the far larger Unite union has been mooted by the Serwotka/Socialist Party leadership.

PCS will not be the only union hit, (the others include Prospect, the FDA, POA and NIPSA) and will be seen as a major attack or challenge to the already hard pressed reps across the civil service.

This is not the first time that the Government have attempted this. The Daily Mirror  reported at the time:

Top Tory Eric Pickles has been slammed for costing taxpayers £90,000 in a failed attack on the trade unions.

The roly-poly Communities Secretary tried to stop civil servants’ union subs being automatically docked from their wages.

But the Cabinet minister’s attempt to end the decades-old “check off” system was humiliatingly blocked by the High Court today.

The PCS union, which launched the legal challenge, said that the system only costs £300 a year to administer.

There was a warning sign at the time which seems to have been ignored:

However, a spokesman for Mr Pickles insisted that he would press on with his attempt to end the practice.

The spokesman said: “This is a ruling on a technical point of employment law, based on a staff handbook drawn up under the Labour Government.

“We have already saved taxpayers’ money by abolishing full-time trade union ‘pilgrims’ and cutting back so-called ‘facility time’ to private sector levels.

“It remains ministers’ intention to abolish check-off, which is an outdated and unnecessary practice given to trade unions, and epitomises a cosy and unhealthy relationship between the unions and the state.”

The unions will need to co-ordinate with their lawyers urgently to prevent a rather unnecessary and ideologically motivated attack on trade unionism.

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