Labour MPs dismiss Tory claim, saying TU Bill will affect unions’ ability to organise in the workplace

Tim Lezard Europe, UK, Union busting

TU Bill debateScrapping check-off will help make more unions more competitive, a minister said yesterday.

The claim was made by BIS minister Nick Boles during yesterday’s committee hearing of the Trade Union Bill.

Told by MPs that getting rid of the system allowing unions to collect subscriptions direct from a member’s salary would fundamentally undermine unions, the Tory MP replied it would free workers currently “tied into” paying subs to one union and allow them to join another.

Earlier Boles said the government was scrapping check-off because it was unfair to expect the employer to shoulder the burden of administering the system.

In response, Stephen Doughty (Labour, Cardiff South and Penarth) reminded him unions had offered to pay the costs themselves.

He said: “Scrapping check-off will have a major impact on unions’ finances. It is almost universally opposed, except by the government and the Tax Payers’ Alliance. Many employers are concerned it will undermine relations between them and unions.”

Chris Stephens (SNP, Glasgow South West) said scrapping check-off would have a huge impact on collective bargaining.

He said: “This is a 19th Century solution in a 21st Century world. At what point did the Conservative Party go from laissez-faire to Stalinist? If income can be deducted from source for rent, for charity, for staff associations, then why not for trade union subs? The real reason to remove check-off is to undermine trade unions in the workplace.”

And Jo Stevens (Labour, Cardiff Central) said: “3.8 million public sector workers will be affected by removing check-off but there is no groundswell of support for this apart from the benches opposite. The sole aim of this Bill is to restrict the ability of trade unions to organise politically and industrially.”

The committee voted by 10 votes to seven to scrap check-off. The Bill now goes to the house of Lords.


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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