Trade Union Bill: Government to stop automatic payment of union fees

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TUC's Paul Nowak said that the move could "poison industrial relations". Photo: Geoff Moore REX/Shutterstock

The Government has announced plans to stop public-sector workers paying their union subscriptions straight from their salaries.

As part of the upcoming Trade Union Bill, union members will have to arrange for trade union fees to be collected from their bank accounts by direct debit, rather than being deducted from payroll.

Ministers have justified the move by saying that the process is “outdated”, and the aim is to give workers more control over their subscriptions.

They also estimate that it will save employers more than £6 million a year in administration costs.

Announcing the move, Cabinet Office minister Matthew Hancock said: “In the 21st century era of direct debits and digital payments, public resources should not be used to support the collection of trade union subscriptions.

“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, unions have attacked the move, claiming that it will “poison industrial relations”.

TUC assistant general secretary Paul Nowak said: “If payroll payment for union membership was outdated, it would not be popular with so many of the UK’s biggest and most successful private companies.

“The public will see this for what it really is – yet another attack on union members from a government that is determined to rebalance power in the workplace so that workers lose their voice and their rights. And it goes hand-in-hand with new proposals that threaten the right to strike.”

The Trade Union Bill was introduced last month, bringing in tougher measures on ballot thresholds and a four-month time limit for industrial action after a ballot.

Unions have already reacted with anger to the new legislation, claiming that it will make industrial action virtually impossible.

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