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Labour slams “spiteful” attack on council union members

The leader of Labour’s councillors in South Gloucestershire has attacked moves by the Conservative government to ban council staff who are union members from paying their union subscriptions direct from their salary as “petty and spiteful”.

The government’s Trade Union Bill, which has its Report Stage and Third Reading in the House of Commons today, was amended at Committee Stage last month to include a clause banning the established practice of ‘check off’ (also known as the deduction of subscriptions at source) whereby public sector workers who are union members pay their subscriptions directly from their salary, administered by their employer. South Gloucestershire Council officials have confirmed to councillors that the cost for administering this service is recovered from the trade unions, and it is not subsidised by Council Tax payers.

The unions representing council staff have raised their concerns about the proposal, and there is a general consensus among the district’s councillors that the current arrangement works well and that staff should retain the ‘check off’ payment option.

Councillor Pat Rooney (Woodstock ward), the Labour Group Leader on South Gloucestershire Council comments:

“Banning ‘check off’ is a politically-motivated attack on trade unions and makes no practical sense. ‘Check off’ makes it easier for council staff to pay their subscriptions, makes it easier for council managers to know the level of union support, and does not cost our Council Tax payers a penny in costs. Banning it is nothing more than a petty and spiteful proposal and it should be dropped.

The Trade Union Bill as a whole is a draconian measure that would remove many long-established rights for union members, and erect many more barriers for unions to overcome in order to make their collective action legal. It seeks to impose rules on the level of turnout and the number of votes needed to validate a ballot which Conservative MPs have no intention of applying to themselves.

This is one of the Conservative government’s very first pieces of legislation and thus exposes their priorities: an ideological drive against trade unions and their members.”

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