2015 10 – Industrial Relations

Industrial relations: A tale of Two Press Releases

Mark Langhammer compares press releases on industrial relations by Whitehall and Edinburgh

It is clear that there are widely divergent approaches to Industrial Relations being pursued respectively in England and Scotland. Take these two press releases, from respective Governments north and south of Hadrian’s Wall. There is really no need to comment further.

New steps to tackle taxpayer-funded support to trade unions

HM Government – Press Releases – Cabinet Office


The government will abolish ‘check off’, the outdated practice of state-run union subscription payments, in the public sector.

  • outdated practice of state-run union subscription payments to be ended, removing the taxpayer-funded administrative burden on employers
  • union subscriptions can be paid by direct debit, modernising the relationship with trade unions and giving public sector workers greater consumer protection
  • removal of ‘check off’ in the public sector to be included in the Trade Union Bill , as part of curtailing public cost of ‘facility time’ subsidies Currently – under the check off process – many public sector workers who are union members have their subscriptions taken directly from their salary, administered by their employer. This was a practice introduced at a time when many people didn’t have bank accounts, and before direct debits or digital payments existed as a convenient and secure way for people to transfer money. Matthew Hancock said: “It’s time to get rid of this outdated practice and modernise the relationship between trade unions and their members.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.” This announcement follows the successful removal of check off by a number of central government departments including the Home Office, HM Revenue & Customs and Ministry of Defence.

Scottish Government Fairer Work practices 10/08/2015

The STUC will receive £100,000 to implement recommendations on progressive workplace practices. The Cabinet Secretary has highlighted the importance of having strong Trade Unions as key social partners that have an important role to play with employees and their employers, an essential component when developing more equal, fairer and productive work places. “Last year’s Working Together review – led by Jim Mather – set out a clear view as to how a more collaborative and productive relationship could be developed, based on more inclusive dialogue between employers and employees. “We have been clear in our support for the recommendations of the Working Together Review and work has been continuing in a number of areas. This formal response announced today now gives me the opportunity to set out how we are taking the recommendations forward in the context of the new focus on Fair Work. “Fair Work means that everyone should be entitled to expect access to the labour market, job security, fair reward, opportunities for personal development, and a say in how their workplace operates. It means that access to work and progress in the workplace should be on an equitable basis, and people should not be disadvantaged by background or circumstance. The Cabinet Secretary was joined by Grahame Smith, General Secretary of STUC at the Leisure centre visit, he said: “While the UK Government’s Trade Union Bill starts from the false premise that unions are bad and our activities need to be curtailed, the Scottish Government has actively sought to promote the very constructive role unions’ play in the workplace and in the wider economy and civil society in reducing inequality and poverty and improving productivity and economic success. James Martin, Chief Executive at the multi-award winning Inverness Leisure centre, said:  The Scottish Government’s formal response to the review can be found here: The Working Together: Progressive Workplace Policies in Scotland Review reported to the Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Women’s Employment publishing its report on 13 August 2014. The independent review group was chaired by Jim Mather and included representatives from trade unions, employers and academics. The review was initiated amid a recognition that there is a direct connection between well-rewarded and sustained employment, progressive workplace policies, productivity and innovation, and had its origins in the regular discussions between the Scottish Government and the STUC. Its underpinning purpose was to recognise and promote the positive role played by trade unions in the workplace, in industry, in the economy and in wider civil society.

  • It underlined the Scottish Government’s support for effective trade unionism, fair employment practice, and greater partnership between employers and unions. A central facet of the review’s remit was therefore to ‘focus on measures which would optimise the relationships that link trade unions, employers and government’.
  • http://gov.scot/Publications/ 2015/08/7871
  • Notes:
  • “I am delighted that the Cabinet Secretary has decided to visit Inverness Leisure to see the work we are undertaking across our organisation. Employing over 150 members of staff at the centre, we are obviously one of the largest individual employers in the city. I am extremely proud of the work we have undertaken in terms of our staff relations, having most recently become a Living Wage employer across the Charity. I am pleased to have worked with the Union and staff representatives to deliver the Trustees’ objectives of having no redundancies and continually improving the level of service provision to our one million visitors every year despite an increasingly challenging financial backdrop.”
  • “Through the Fair Work Convention, the creation of which was the central recommendation of the Review, unions, employers and Government in Scotland have the opportunity work together to establish a distinctive approach to industrial relations and fair employment practices in the UK, akin to the approach in the most successful European economies.”
  • “The Scottish Government’s very positive response to the recommendations of the Review demonstrates an appreciation of the progressive role of trade unions which stands in stark contrast to the vindictive approach of the Westminster Government.
  • “This Government is committed to creating a more equal society and we will only be fairer and more successful when we end the blight of low pay and when all employers see their employees as assets in which to invest, to nurture and grow.”
  • “Unlike the approach of Westminster through its Trade Union Bill, we believe a modern and progressive approach to industrial relations and to trade unionism is at the very heart of being able to achieve Fair Work. I am delighted to announce funding of £100,000 to the STUC to help them develop the capacity of Trade Union representatives through leadership and equality programmes some of the key the recommendations of the review.
  • “Since the report was published, The Scottish Government has implemented a number of changes, the first of those being the creation of my own post as Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work Skills and Training and the establishment of Fair Work Convention. The Convention has now met four times, and it has set its remit to deliver a blueprint for what Fair Work should look like in Scotland, by the end of March 2016.
  • During a visit to the Inverness leisure centre the Cabinet Secretary learned about the centre’s trade union good practices and the implementation of the Living Wage, she said:
  • The announcement was made by Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work Roseanna Cunningham as part of the Scottish Government’s formal response to the Working Together review in Inverness.
  • £100,000 as part of formal response to the Working Together review.
  • Scottish Government – Press Releases
  • The government intends to update legislation in the Trade Union Bill to facilitate the policy being adopted across the whole of the public sector. This change is part of the government’s commitment to tackle ‘facility time’ – the taxpayer-funded subsidies given to trade unions.
  • “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.”
  • The removal of check off will modernise the relationship between employees and their trade unions, while removing the burden of administration from the employer. The move also gives the employee greater control over their subscription, allowing them to set up their own direct debit with their chosen trade union, and giving them greater consumer protection under the Direct Debit Guarantee.
  • The government has today announced its intention to abolish the practice of ‘check off’ across all public sector organisations, modernising the relationship between employees and trade unions.

The £100k funding for STUC will support two projects – the introduction of equality reps and Union Leadership Development Programme.