Freedom of Choice
You may have heard about the Governments plans to end automatic subscription payments for unions within the public sector. The Government claims that this is an out dated system which was greater in a time when most workers did not have a bank account. They claim that this will give people more freedom with their finances and will end people being forced into union membership. (see this BBC Article)
Firstly, the days of closed shops and mandatory union membership are long gone. Each and every member of a trade union has chosen to join that union.
Secondly, many members prefer to have their membership taken directly from their wages. It means it's all taken care of and they don't have to worry. Also if they are entitled to a tax rebate on their subs, it is also all done automatically.
DOCAS, Check off etc
DOCAS, Check off or whatever you call it does not have a vast administrative overhead. If it did private employers would not offer automatic deductions. Direct payments from salary also allow employers to know how many people are in a union. Now this might seem scary to a union member, but it is useful for employers when planning around industrial action (Employers are not allowed to identify individuals directly from this system.)
The Real Reasons for stopping this
So if there are all these positive things about automatic payments, why would the Government want to end them. Well, yes, there is a cost involved in administering the system but there are other automatic deduction schemes e.g. charitable giving. The costs of administering multiple schemes together will not be the same as adding the costs of administering the schemes separately. So stopping one scheme of automatic payments is unlikely to lower costs by that much.
The real reason is that the Government thinks this will make less people join unions and make it more difficult for unions to control their income. It is acutally only a very small change in the way in which subscriptions are collected but it could have a massive behavioural affect on the public. (Get a copy of Nudge, to understand why Governments like this approach) In doing this the Government thinks that the unions will shrink in size and have more trouble finding money to campaign on issues affecting workers.
Stronger together in UNISON
So what is UNISON doing about this? (see UNISON's reponse) Well we will be campaigning against the Trade Union Bill which contains the legislation to prevent automatic deductions. We will also be working with employers to maintain the systems currently in place. After all it benefits them as well as members.
What can you do?
Information from the branch will on what you can do will be coming out shortly. But most importantly, you can let people know why you are happy for subscriptions to be deducted and correct some of the misconceptions being spread.