The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has won a major victory over the government. The High Court has ruled that ministers acted illegally by withdrawing check-off, the decades-old practice of collecting members’ union subscriptions directly from their pay packet.
The union has won £3 million from the government because of the illegal moves the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) used to try to ‘crush’ the PCS.
In 2015 the union was at the heart of opposition to the government, fighting against the government’s cuts and closures andchallenging when the Conservatives were robbing members of their redundancy rights. The union were steadfast in opposing austerity.
As a result the then Conservative Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude, took a particularly vicious and authoritarian decision to attack members’ terms and conditions, also launching an offensive on union reps and attempting to bankrupt the PCS. Maude announced overnight that he would not allow members to pay their union subscriptions directly from their pay packets. However, this was a system that had been in operation for many decades. A union spokesperson said he did that because he knew that 90% of the union’s income came from that method.
PCS say: “In a magnificent campaign we signed up over 160,000 members to pay their subs by direct debit in a matter of weeks and months to stop us from going bankrupt and to ensure we could continue to represent members at work. We also took legal action in the High Court to show that the government had acted illegally, and to get compensation. Today that case has been settled and in a humiliating defeat for the government, in its attempt to smash PCS and other unions in the public sector, it has to pay £3 million compensation and all of our legal costs.
“In the DWP, reps and members worked hard together to ensure that PCS didn’t suffer as a result of check-off ending. Fran Heathcote, DWP President said ‘Our members recognised this attack for what it was, and it is pleasing to learn that the courts have recognised that too’.
“We now plan to take legal action against every major government department because of the illegal way they’ve treated us.”
PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Today’s announcement tells us we have settled one departmental case on union busting, we have many more to come. That’s good news for all of us, and now we’ll ensure we use that money to benefit our members.
“This goes to show that this union can win. We can win in the courts and we can win through campaigning. We’ve defeated the government on the Civil Service Compensation Scheme and we’re waiting for the outcome of a judicial review on the way the government handled pay this year because we believe they did not consult us lawfully. But we’ve got more campaigns to fight. We’ve still got to challenge the government on pay, and ensure that next year we can win above inflation pay rises.
“We will continue to take them to court when we can, but the key to winning is to be a stronger union in every workplace. If you know a colleague who hasn’t joined PCS, please urge them to join. If you’re a member consider becoming a rep. The more of us who are in the union, the more of us who are active means we won’t just beat the government in court we will beat them in our campaigning, too.”
I say well done. A splendid, well fought victory.
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