20 May 2016
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has won a case against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after the government scrapped check-off for civil service workers.
Judge Elisabeth Laing agreed that check-off was contractual, allowing PCS to claim damages. This comes after a similar case in 2013, when the Department for Communities and Local Government paid out £100,000 when the union challenged its plan to end check-off.
Despite these cases and widespread support for check-off among both employers and trade union members, the government attempted to ban check-off from all public sector organisations in an earlier draft of the Trade Union Act. It was forced to climbdown on these plans after facing opposition from all parties in the House of Lords.
The Trade Union Act still contains a clause which states that check-off is only permitted where employers and unions are in agreement over the system, but the High Court’s findings may now give vexatious employers pause for thought.
PCS is now considering further legal action against other government departments that have removed check-off, describing the scrapping of the system – as encouraged by previous Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude – as “a politically motivated attempt to undermine our finances and break our organisation”.
Indeed, PCS reported significantly reduced income following the removal of check-off, while moving members onto direct debit payments took up a huge amount of resources. All of this while trying to fight campaigns against increasing cuts in the public sector.
General Secretary of PCS Mark Serwotka, said: “It has always been clear that the political decision to remove check-off was unnecessary and vindictive, and we have comprehensively been proved right.
“This is not just a defeat for DWP, it is a victory for all unions over a major injustice. And it is scandalous that taxpayers again face huge legal bills because Tory ministers have an obsession with trying to undermine trade unions in the workplace.
“Francis Maude and the Tories tried to break us and we responded by signing up huge numbers of members to recommit to our union. I pay tribute to the dedication of our activists, members and staff for the work they have done in the face of this hostility.”