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Guidelines for the Use of the Bargaining Fee by the PSA


The PSA, in accordance with its Partnership for Quality strategy, is committed to working constructively with employers and members to resolve issues around bargaining and the promotion of unionisation through a collective approach.

The bargaining fee is a tool to assist the bargaining process. It is not a complete answer to issues of recruitment and pass-on for the PSA.

The bargaining fee should only be utilised where more positive and collective approaches, such as union-only provisions, are not considered enough to ensure a positive outcome from the bargaining process, and the circumstances are appropriate.

The payment of a bargaining fee does not exclude the possibility of a delay in pass on (or other union only provisions) giving union members an advantage.


The possibility of using a bargaining fee can be raised at any point during the bargaining process.

Where an organiser and their negotiating team thinks a bargaining fee is appropriate she/he must advise the relevant Assistant Secretary who will seek the approval of the secretariat.

It is recognised that the issue of whether or not to seek approval for a bargaining fee will be the subject of discussion by negotiating teams and their organisers. However, PSA policy, that the use of the bargaining fee is a last resort, must be observed and organisers and negotiating teams should be careful not to raise delegates and members expectations that a bargaining fee is necessarily the best solution to the problems they face in bargaining.

The referral to the Secretariat will take place at a time that is appropriate in the process, bearing in mind that in some circumstances it will be desirable to include the bargaining fee in the pre-bargaining agreement, whereas at other times greater leverage might be achieved if the bargaining fee was decided later in the process.

In making a request the organiser will identify the organisation, the history of employment relations in the enterprise, the current and historical union density and the reasons for seeking the bargaining fee.

The Assistant Secretaries and Secretariat will expedite the process of approval to ensure the quickest possible turnaround following receipt of the request. A decision on a request for approval will normally be made and advised to the organiser within 3 working days.

In making their decision the secretariat will give due weight to the recommendation from the organiser on the ground.

Guidelines for Approval

These guidelines apply to the decision making process of the secretariat. Organisers should take these into account when seeking approval for a bargaining fee.

The Secretariat will take the following factors into consideration when making a decision on a request for approval:

  • The history of employment relations in the enterprise. A bargaining fee is only likely to be successful where relationships with the employer are generally good or will be improved through the formalising of pass-on through the use of a bargaining fee.
  • The level of PSA density in the enterprise. High density is normally a prerequisite to a successful application of the bargaining fee.
  • The size and number of other unions in the enterprise, the quality of the relationship with those unions and their policy on the use of bargaining fees. A hostile relationship with other unions is likely to be an impediment to the process.
  • The willingness of the employer to discuss with the PSA the content of any offer to employees on IEA made under the bargaining fee arrangement.
  • The expectations of union members in the enterprise.
  • Any risk that union membership might be undermined.
  • The possibility of union only provisions either instead of, or in addition to the bargaining fee.
    In considering these factors the Secretariat will also take into account relevant case law – in particular the case of the National Distribution Union v General Distributors Ltd (Employment Court 16 Feb 2007)

Bargaining Fee Arrangements
The bargaining fee should be set at the full union subscription or as close as possible to the full union subscription.

Where approval is given and the ballot is successful, the deductions must be remitted through the membership system.

Organisers need to liaise with the PSA Finance team as soon as approval is given, to ensure that payment is effected smoothly.

There is a need for good communication to organisers, delegates, members and those paying the fees before the vote and afterwards to ensure that the process and the effect were understood – in particular that people paying the fee are not entitled to the rights of members.

A standard clause must be used as the basis of all negotiations with employers over the application of the bargaining fee.