High Court win for PCS union

"This was an act of political spite to try and hobble the union’s funding and ability to operate."

1 Apr 2022| News

Following an earlier victory over the Department for Work and Pensions, Thompsons Solicitors, instructed by the PCS union, last week successfully challenged the decision by the Home Office to remove the check-off facility from its members.

This is the system whereby members pay their subscriptions to the union through the employer’s payroll.

According to the union, the decision to remove the facility in 2014 was a politically-motivated attack designed to bankrupt it by cutting off its subscription income. PCS considers that the Home Office made the move because of the union’s involvement in fighting back against the then government’s austerity programme.

Although many PCS members and activists responded to the threat by switching to pay their subscriptions through direct debit instead, the union lost a significant number of members and income as a result of the change.

PCS lodged a series of judicial review claims with the High Court against the government departments involved arguing that, by removing check-off, the employer had breached their members’ contractual rights and they were entitled to claim third party damages as a result.

This latest judgment against the Home Office strengthens previous rulings handed down in the High Court in respect of the then Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Work and Pensions. In both cases, the High Court upheld the union’s arguments that members had a contractual right to check-off.

The case against the Home Office will now proceed to a remedy hearing to determine the amount of damages that the department must now pay PCS. There is already a precedent of the sort of sum that might be awarded from the £3 million payment ordered against the Department for Work and Pensions in an earlier case.

The union has a series of further claims against other government departments due to be heard by the High Court this year. However, given the judgments so far, PCS is pressing the government to do the right thing and settle the claims out of court rather than seek to defend the indefensible and waste more taxpayers’ money.

In response to the judgment, Ann Rooney of Thompsons, who ran the case for PCS, commented:

“This was an act of political spite to try and hobble the union’s funding and ability to operate. The High Court was unequivocal in rejecting the unilateral contract change. The government has made much of condemning P&O for their appalling sackings – an employer arrogantly thinking they could do what they like and get away with it – and yet behind the scenes they were playing the same game with their own employees, ending long-standing arrangements for no good reason”.

Article via Thompsons Solicitors