24 March 2022

PCS wins check-off case against the Home Office

We have recorded another great win in the High Court on the issue of check-off, this time against the Home Office.

It follows a similar victory against the Department for Work and Pensions, who were forced to pay the union £3 million in damages.

On 1 December 2014, the Home Office removed the check-off facility from PCS members. Check-off was the system by which members paid their subscriptions to the union through the employer's payroll system. The Home Office’s action was taken around the same time as the vast majority of other civil service employers removed the facility at the urgings of the then minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude.

There was no rational reason to remove the facility, we believe that it was a politically-motivated attack designed to bankrupt the union by cutting off its subscription income, due to our leading role in the fightback against the then government’s austerity programme. PCS members and activists responded magnificently by re-signing the vast majority of our members to the union to pay their subscriptions by direct debit. However, we still lost a significant number of members and a significant amount of income as a result of the attack.

Breach of members’ contracts

PCS has not taken this attack lying down. We have lodged a series of judicial review claims with the High Court against the offending departments. The basis of our claims is that, in removing check-off, the employer breached our members contractual rights to it; and that PCS is entitled to claim third party damages as a result of the breach.

At a High Court hearing on 3 March 2022 at the Royal Courts of Justice, Mr Justice Choudhury upheld our arguments. He declared that our members had a contractual right to check-off; that in removing check-off, the Home Office had breached our members contracts; and that PCS was entitled to redress.

This latest judgement fortifies previous rulings handed down in the High Court in respect of the then Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Work and Pensions. In both cases, the High Court upheld our arguments that members had a contractual right to check-off.

The case against the Home Office will now proceed to a remedy hearing to determine the amount of damages that the department must now pay PCS. We have a series of further claims against other government departments due to be heard by the High Court this year.

For each case that we win, the employer will pay our legal costs on top of any damages we secure. Rather than waste taxpayers’ money in this manner, PCS will be pressing the government to do the right thing and settle our claims out of court, thereby not incurring legal costs.

The withdrawal of check-off was an attempt to destroy our union. We will continue to fight and campaign on behalf of our members undeterred by government threats and intimidation.

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