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Government plans to scrap automatic union contributions

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The government has announced plans to stop public sector workers automatically paying subscriptions to trade unions from their salaries.

The practice, known as 'check off', allows members to pay their union contributions through payroll. The government has called this outdated, claiming it was introduced when many people did not have bank accounts, and before direct debits or digital payments existed.

Minister for the Cabinet Office and paymaster general Matthew Hancock said that public resources should not be used to support the collection of trade union subscriptions.

“It’s time to get rid of this outdated practice and modernise the relationship between trade unions and their members,” he said. “By ending check off 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.”

Unions have criticised the proposals. Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail called the measures “spiteful”, adding: “It is a crude attempt to starve trade unions of money, money that is then used every day to promote training, workplace safety and hold up decent pay for millions of working people throughout the UK."
 
She added: “This is nothing other than unnecessary interference by a government that has not got a clue about the reality of working life and the vital role unions have in workers’ lives.

“This government will suffer a backlash from this too for people will see this for what it is – another needless, malicious attack on the people who are the backbone of our public services."

The announcement follows the Trade Union bill, which includes plans to introduce tougher restrictions on strikes and removal of restrictions on using temporary workers to cover for striking staff.

Commenting on the Trade Union bill, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “A government that claimed to be on the side of working people now wants to tip the balance of power against them with draconian restrictions on the right to strike.

“David Cameron has positioned himself as the prime minister for bad bosses, ready to chip away at paid holidays, rest breaks and maternity rights in EU negotiations.”