The government has announced plans to stop automatic payment of union fees as part of trade union reforms.

As part of the Trade Union Bill, public sector workers will have to pay for their union subscriptions via direct debit, rather than the funds being deducted from their salary.

Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock said:

“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.

“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.”

Ministers believe that the current payment process is “outdated” and stopping it will give employees more control over their subscriptions.

The government estimates that the reform will save employers over £6 million a year in the cost of administration.

Unions do not support the change, calling it an “attack on union members”.

Paul Nowak, general secretary at the TUC, said:

“If payroll payment for union membership was outdated, it would not be popular with so many of the UK’s biggest and most successful private companies.

“The public will see this for what it really is – yet another attack on union members from a government that is determined to rebalance power in the workplace so that workers lose their voice and their rights. And it goes hand-in-hand with new proposals that threaten the right to strike.

“Instead of going out of their way to poison industrial relations, the government should work positively with workers and their representatives for the good of public services and the economy.”