New Trade Union Bill clause threatens to provoke major stand-off between Westminster and devolved government

October 21st 2015

Speaking on the day that a new clause on the Trade Union Bill was tabled, seeking to ban employers for offering the facility of payroll deductions for union dues, Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) General Secretary Grahame Smith said:

“In publishing this clause, the UK Government has confirmed its intention to remove from public service workers their right to agree with employers that their union dues should be directly deducted from their salaries if they desire.

“This is a nakedly discriminatory action which will not apply to other deductions such as charity payments, pension or cycle schemes. It will also only apply in the public sector.

“It could not be clearer that the Government wants to make it harder for employees to maintain union membership and to wrap up unions in red-tape to divert our reps from their core task of looking after members.

“The Government justifies this on the basis of ‘saving tax-payers’ money, wilfully ignoring the fact that under the principles of devolution it is for the Scottish Government and local authorities to determine how public money is spent. The Government is also apparently ignorant of the fact that many unions pay for the check-off or DOCAS facility through which deductions are made.

“We have been very pleased that Scottish local authorities have stated their intention not to co-operate with this aspect of the legislation and it is clear that the Scottish Government is considering doing the same.

“The prospect of a major stand-off is now looming between Westminster and the Scottish Government and local authorities backed by trade union and the Scottish public.”

ENDS

For further details: Dave Moxham or Kevin Buchanan 0141 337 8100

Notes

Text of amendment NC11 * To move the following Clause— “Prohibition on deduction of union subscriptions from wages in public sector

(1) After section 116A of the 1992 Act insert— “Deduction of trade union subscriptions from wages 116B Prohibition on deduction of union subscriptions from wages in public sector

(1) No relevant public sector employer may make trade union subscription deductions from wages payable to workers.

(2) An employer is a relevant public sector employer if the employer is a public authority specified, or of a description specified, in regulations made by a Minister of the Crown.

(3) A Minister of the Crown may by regulations provide, in relation to a body or other person that is not a public authority but has functions of a public nature and is funded wholly or partly from public funds, that the body or other person is to be treated as a public authority for the purposes of this section.

(4) Regulations under this section may make provision specifying the person or other entity that is to be treated for the purposes of this section as the employer of a person who is employed by the Crown.

(5) The regulations may—

(a) deem a category of persons holding an office or employment under the Crown (or two or more such categories taken together) to be an entity for the purposes of provision made under subsection (4);

(b) make different provision under subsection (4) for different categories of persons holding an office or employment under the Crown.

(6) Regulations under this section may—

(a) make different provision for different purposes;

(b) make transitional provision in connection with the coming into force of any provision of the regulations;

(c) make consequential provision amending or otherwise modifying contracts of employment or collective agreements.

(7) Regulations under this section are to be made by statutory instrument.

(8) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.

(9) In this section—

“trade union subscription deductions” means deductions representing payments to a trade union in respect of a worker’s membership of the union;

“wages” has the same meaning as in Part 2 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (see section 27); “worker” has the same meaning as in that Act.”

(2) In section 296 of that Act (meaning of “worker” and related expressions), in subsection (3), after “68(4),” insert “116B(9),”.”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment would prohibit public sector employers prescribed by regulations from deducting trade union subscriptions from workers’ wages and sending these to the unions concerned, a service called ‘check-off’. Commencement of the ban would allow a reasonable period for affected workers and unions to make alternative arrangements to check-off.

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