Trade Unions

Communities and Local Government written question – answered on 28th November 2011.

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Photo of Aidan Burley Aidan Burley Conservative, Cannock Chase

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

(1) which trades unions receive (a) subscription and (b) political levy payments from his Department using a check-off arrangement; and whether his Department charges trades unions an administration fee for collecting trade unions subscriptions through its payroll;

(2) how many staff of his Department pay their trade union subscriptions to each union recognised by his Department using a check-off arrangement; and how many such payments involved payment of the political levy in the latest period for which figures are available.

Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Prospect, PCS and the FDA trade unions receive subscription fees from the Department for Communities and Local Government using check-off arrangements. The following table shows the number of staff paid through these arrangements in October 2011. The Department does not charge an administration fee for collecting subscriptions through its payroll.

Prospect 13
PCS 771

As the payment of the levy is a matter between the individual and the trade union, this information is not held by the Department.

As I noted in my answer of 9 September 2011, Hansard, column 867W, there is a lack of transparency on the political levy, as some trade unions fail to inform their members of the fact that they are being charged the levy when they join, and they make no reference of the right to opt-out on membership forms. As the deposited paper associated with that answer illustrates, these membership forms also act as the employee's authorisation for the union subscription to be deducted from the departmental payroll.

However, details of which trade unions have political funds and collect a political levy are publicly listed in the annual returns on the Certification Officer website:

Check-off is a voluntary arrangement, and employers have no statutory duty either to operate it at all, or to continue to do so having started. Employers may also choose to charge the union for the administration involved in providing the service of collection the union subscriptions.

Ministers are open to representations on whether an administration fee should be charged for collection of trade union subscriptions through the departmental payroll, or whether the check-off arrangements should operate at all, as opposed to the administration effectively being subsidised by taxpayers.

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