Dave Prentis says government should focus on tax credits and living standards rather than unions
The government has now published its check-off amendment to the controversial Trade Union Freedom Bill, confirming the worst fears of unions and public sector employers alike.
The move came just a week after MPs heard ample evidence supporting the current arrangements during the bill’s committee stage.
If the Bill is passed, millions of public sector workers will lose the right to have their trade union subscriptions automatically deducted from their pay cheques – forcing members and their unions to make alternative arrangements.
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Scrapping check-off will be hugely disruptive for unions and the working people who belong to them. Allowing someone to pay their union membership fees through their salary is straightforward and easy both for individuals and their employers.
“This is a system that has worked well for years in both the public and the private sectors. So well, that only last week it emerged that a number of HR directors in the NHS had urged ministers to think again.
“But it seems they won’t, nor will they consult to see what anyone else thinks.”
He added that with check-off there was no cost to the public purse, as unions pay the cost of any set up.
“Instead of making life difficult for unions, the government’s efforts would be far better employed backing down on its damaging tax credit cuts and sorting out the living standards crisis that’s still hurting millions of ordinary families.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady called the check-off amendment “a deliberate attack on trade union funding”.
And she added: “Employers are rightly concerned that getting rid of check-off will strain industrial relations and be bad for staff morale.”
Last week trade union leaders gave evidence to the public bill committee.
Asked to comment specifically on check-off, Mr Prentis said that it was a “voluntary arrangement” that the majority of public sector employers actively chose to adopt.
He told MPs: “No employer has said anything to us about wanting this blanket end to the check-off arrangements. The system works incredibly well. To end check-off would have a major effect on partnership working in health, in schools, in local government.”
Countless local authorities have voiced their opposition to the bill, with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) asserting the intention of its members to “honour and protect existing industrial relations arrangements in local government.”
NHS employers have warned ministers that getting rid of check -off will damage employee relations and morale.
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