DOCAS (deduction of contributions at source) is the system used to take your union subs straight out of your wages. Also known as “check off” it’s a simple, cheap system that is easy for UNISON, our members and employers.
It also isn’t something employers do for free as a favour to us. UNISON pays for it. At Manchester City Council a small percentage of subs go to the employer to cover administration costs. With so many payroll systems automated we are probably paying more than it costs.
Our new Conservative government wants to change that, banning public sector employers from providing DOCAS.
We know it’s not about the cost. And it’s not something the public is demanding. Why would anyone particularly care about administration of union subs. Pretty boring right?
It’s being done for the same reason as most Tory legislation on unions. An attempt to undermine us, coupled with sheer malice.
Their plan is that if DOCAS is shut down our members won’t switch to direct debit, they will just let their union membership lapse. They think we will lose income and the union will have trouble operating.
It’s an attempt to starve us out.
It will also make it easier for employers to challenge strike ballots in the courts. Membership information from DOCAS can sometimes be more reliable and it is easier to gather and check.
Some people believe that the best option is to immediately ask our members to change to paying their subs by direct debit. We believe that we should at least campaign to keep DOCAS first.
For one thing we don’t know how many staff hours are spent on administering DOCAS nationally. This is work our own members do. We don’t know what affect abolishing DOCAS might have on their jobs.
But also why should we ask our members to change? Our DOCAS contracts with employers are legal. The system works. AND we pay for it!
Where does it end? Buses and trains are part of the public sector. Are we going to be told that we can’t use them to go to union meetings? Will buildings owned by local authorities be banned from holding our conferences?
The answer to every attack from the Tories cannot simply be to back off and do something different. How long before we run out of options?
We need a prominent public campaign to expose this as a deliberate ideological sneak attack and campaign to keep our DOCAS arrangements.