Government consults on new trade union fines

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Trade unions are facing fines of up to £20,000 for breaking governance rules, under plans being consulted on by the Government.

Under the proposals, the Certification Officer – the body responsible for statutory functions relating to trade unions and employers’ associations – will be able to issue fines of up to £20,000 for serious breaches of election rules or mismanagement of their political funds.

Currently the Certification Officer cannot impose such financial penalties, it can only issue a declaration or an enforcement order if a union breaches its statutory obligations.

Under the proposed powers, outlined in the Trade Union Act 2016,  the Certification Officer will be able to fine unions for breaches such as:

  • failing to ensure senior union positions are not held by an individual with a criminal record;
  • breaching requirements for elections to senior positions; or
  • mismanagement of political funds.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “Trade unions exist to represent workers’ interests and make decisions which can affect millions of people’s lives, so it is right for the Government to ensure they are run responsibly.

“The proposed powers will make sure unions are properly regulated in the future to ensure they truly represent the interests of their members.”

The majority of the Trade Union Act’s new powers came into force on 1 March, bringing in tougher ballot requirements for industrial action – particularly for “important public services” such as health, education and transport.

The consultation on the Certification Officer’s powers runs for six weeks until 21 May 2017.

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