Latest Public Sector News


Government back down on public sector membership fees in Trade Union Bill

Automatic deduction of trade union membership from public sector workers’ wages will no longer be abolished by the Trade Union Bill after the government added a clause in the House of Lords.

Lord Bridges, parliamentary secretary to the Cabinet Office, said that the government had agreed to integrate an amendment into the Bill, proposed by Conservative peer Lord Balfe,  which allows public sector employers to continue with the membership fee ‘check-off’ if they agree with the trade union and if the union meet the administrative costs.

The move was hailed by peers who had backed the amendment, saying that the proposed changes, which would require members to pay their fees via direct debit, would discourage workers, especially low-paid workers, women and those on payday loans, from paying and so receiving union protection and benefits.

Lord Bridges said that although the amendment was intended to “modernise” the relationship between unions and their members, he accepted that it was not seen that way in the House, adding: “I fear that my trying to convince your Lordships of our case this afternoon may simply add grist to the mill of those who see this measure as a means of undermining the trade unions themselves. That is certainly not—and never has been—the government’s intention.”

Lord Bridges added that the government have developed a list of around 21,000 publicly funded bodies, based on the Freedom of Information Act and excluding charities, that will be covered by the new regulations.

Lord Kerslake, president of the LGA, who had been preparing to support the amendment, welcomed the government’s decision, saying: “I am in the happy position of finding that the speech I wrote over the weekend is now entirely redundant. I think we are all agreed about the importance of the role of trade unions in this country. They are a part of British life. ​It was clear to anyone who looked at the detail that the government’s proposals on check-off stood to do considerable damage both to the unions themselves and to their members and potential members.”

Lord Kerslake added that he hoped the Lords debate will produce “equal progress on some of the other contentious issues in the Bill”.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission had previously warned that the Bill could breach the human right to strike.

Trade union leaders remain opposed to the Bill in its entirety, but welcomed the amendment.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trade Unions Congress, said: “We are delighted the government has listened and backed away from ending check-off in the public sector.

“Banning workers from choosing to pay union subs in a convenient way through their payroll would, as many have warned, damaged industrial relations and morale in key services.”

Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, added: “It was absurd that the government was seeking to interfere in the private and amicable arrangements between workers, their employers and their unions.”

The House of Lords have already introduced a select committee to look at the impact of the Bill on party funding.

(Image c. Tim Goode)



There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

public sector executive tv

more videos >

last word

Prevention: Investing for the future

Prevention: Investing for the future

Rob Whiteman, CEO at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance (CIPFA), discusses the benefits of long-term preventative investment. Rising demand, reducing resource – this has been the r more > more last word articles >

public sector focus

View all News


Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Bei... more >
How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

19/06/2019How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

Tom Chance, director at the National Community Land Trust Network, argues t... more >


Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

17/12/2018Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

It’s no secret that the public sector and its service providers need ... more >