CTUF President Slams Tory Union Levy Plans

Professor Keith Ewing, President of the Campaign For Trade Union Freedom

The Tory government has published its response to the consultation on the Certification Officers proposed levy on trade unions and employers organisations and it appears that they have ignored the views expressed by unions lawyers and employment experts that the legislation was totally unnecessary and punitive against trade unions.

The government intend to prepare draft regulations to bring in the levy to be laid before Parliament in December 2021.

The levy will apply from April 2022 and will be charged from the final quarter of the 2022 – 2023 financial year.

It also appears that employer’s bodies and organisations have been succesful in to passing more costs onto trade unions.

The government plans are for a ‘basic’ levy paid by unions and employer organisations – but on top of this will be an ‘additional levy’ paid by unions (but not union federations such as the TUC and the CSEU) to cover costs specific to them.

Finally, an ‘enhanced levy’ paid by higher income unions is designed to to cover the ‘shortfall’ between basic and additional levy, which will cover the costs of smaller unions and employer organisations who will be exempt from the levy.

Also the new investigatory powers allowing outside bodies to lay complaints about a trade union will be brought into effect by commencement regulations in April 2022. Unions have warned this opens unions to ‘fishing’ expeditions, spurious claims and time wasting designed to tie up trade union’s time and finances.

Professor Keith Ewing President of the Campaign For Trade Union Freedom and one of the UK’s foremost employment legislation experts slammed the Governments proposals saying: “It is surely very unusual if not unique to impose taxes of this kind:

  • Are MPs taxed to pay for the standards’ watchdog?
  • Are companies taxed to pay for Companies House or the Competition Commission? 
  • Are data processors taxed to pay for the Information Commissioner?
  • Arebroadcasters taxed to pay for OFCOM? 

Do any other organisations enjoy the doubtful benefit of being taxed to pay to be regulated?   If not, this must surely raise questions of compatibility with the ECHR, Articles 11 and 14 (protection from discrimination in relation to freedom of association). 

The government cites the example of the levy imposed by the Grocery Code Adjudicator.   At the moment the levy is just under £2 million split equally between 13 retailers. But the analogy is a poor one.   

Presumably, grocers’ costs will be tax deductible from retailers’ profits?   Are the grocers not then just passing on the costs to the general taxpayer?  In the UK trade unions are non-profit making bodies financed principally by pre-taxed income.   It is workers’ taxed income that is being used to pay for the regulation of their own trade unions.

I am surprised there has not been more criticism of these proposals by trade unions themselves.”

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