The Public and Commercial Services union has launched a legal bid for compensation from the Home Office over the cancellation of a system that saw union subs automatically deducted from members paypackets and passed directly to its coffers.
Last year the PCS won a £3m payout from the Department for Work and Pensions following the 2015 termination of the “check-off” system of automatically deducting subscriptions from staff pay.
The out-of-court settlement came after two union members sued the department for compensation in the wake of a 2016 High Court ruling that check-off had been ended unlawrully because the move was not subject to proper consultation.
PCS collected 90% of its income via check-off when DWP and the Home Office – among other departments – stopped the system in a move linked to plans announced by the then Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude to end check-off for public sector workers under the trade union bill. PCS said the move was an an attempt to slash trade unions’ funding, saying it made it more complicated for members to sign up.
PCS’s financial records show it lost 37,000 members in 2015 – 16% of its total membership.
General secretary Mark Serwotka said seeking compensation from the Home Office was part of a systematic bid to make sure the union did not lose out financially after the ruling that the change had been unlawful.
“A deep moral and financial injustice was done to our members which was a deliberate attempt to bankrupt PCS,” he said.
"The unprecedented, multimillion-pound compensation payment we received is just the beginning of our fight for justice.
"The removal of check off was politically motivated, aimed at undermining the union’s ability to defend its members’ jobs and to effectively oppose the Tory government’s devastating austerity programme.
“Instead of negotiating with the union properly, ministers thought it more expedient to unlawfully target us financially.”
Civil Service World asked the Home Office for a response, but the department said it would be “inappropriate to comment” on potential legal proceedings.