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  1. ITV Report

Tories accused of 'spiteful' attack on trade union funding

The Government has been accused of being "spiteful" after announcing plans to stop public sector workers from automatically paying trade union subscriptions from their salaries.

The "check-off" practice was introduced at a time when many people did not have bank accounts, and before direct debits or internet payments existed.

Ministers say it is time to "get rid of this outdated practice and modernise the relationship between trade unions and their members".

Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Emily Morgan:

Under the new proposals, to be included in the Trade Union Bill, subscriptions will have to be paid by direct debit from the employee's bank account.

In the 21st century era of direct debits and digital payments, public resources should not be used to support the collection of trade union subscriptions.

It’s time to get rid of this outdated practice and modernise the relationship between trade unions and their members. By ending check off we are bringing greater transparency to employees - making it easier for them to choose whether or not to pay subscriptions and which union to join.

– Cabinet Office minister Matthew Hancock

Unions described it as a "political attack" on workers and warned the move will damage industrial relations.

Public sector workers stage a protest in Trafalgar Square in July 2014 over pay and pensions. Credit: PA

Gail Cartmail, Unite assistant general secretary said: "This government will suffer a backlash from this, for people will see this for what it is - another needless, malicious attack on the people who are the backbone of our public services."

TUC assistant general secretary Paul Nowak said: "Instead of going out of their way to poison industrial relations, the government should engage positively with workers and their representatives for the good of public services and the economy."

"It's a totally unnecessary and vindictive move because it doesn't apply to any other salary based subscriptions like payments to charities", a spokesman for the Public and Commercial Services union said.

The Unite union said the move was 'another spiteful measure from the Conservatives'.

Labour also criticised the move as a "mean spirited and ideological attack on the rights of ordinary trade union members in the workplace."

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Ashworth said the party were committed to "check-off" and called on the government to abandon plans to scrap the system.

Trade union members have the right to organise in the work place and this measure is wholly aimed at undermining that right.

Labour is committed to check-off and the Tories should abandon plans to scrap it.

– Labour shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Ashworth