UNISON launches credit union network

UNISON has unveiled a unique network of credit unions to help low-paid members tackle debt and provide a moral alternative against the “abuse of pay-day loan companies”.

At a press conference this morning, general secretary Dave Prentis explained that, with “one in five” turning to pay-day lenders, the union has formed a network of 40 credit unions across England, Scotland and Wales, with more to come in the coming weeks.

The union’s own charity, There for You, already offers a range of services, including financial assistance and the UNISON Debtline. This will be a new component in the “development of a wraparound and holistic welfare service”.

The new service will not be a “sticking plaster”, but will be about providing members with “sustainable solutions” to their problems.

Mr Prentis said that UNISON will be working with the community and a wide range of interested parties: he said that they will be “talking to the Archbishop of Canterbury” in coming weeks.

The launch also heard about the links between pay-day loan companies and the Conservative Party, and the refusal of high street banks to provide credit or even bank accounts to those on low incomes, while at the same time, helping provide start-up funding for high-cost pay-day lenders.

Advertising is aggressive: Get Sameday Loans, for instance, even uses the context of gender and women’s independence, with illustrations that deliberately mimic the iconic Rosie the Riveter, to target women with loans that have a representative APR of 2,957.3%.

Mr Prentis emphasised that the union will also be taking the issue to all the major political parties, together with a Westminster seminar that is slated for the return of Parliament.

Martin Groombridge of the London Capital Credit Union described it as “an enormous step forward” and was about “bringing morality back into banking.”

Debt, he explained, does not only affect the low-paid: his group has been contacted by people working in the City of London and for national newspapers.

UNISON assistant general secretary Liz Snape said that the intention was to help people “get their finances back on track – and get their lives back on track.”

It was, she added, “a unique package”.

Birmingham City Save CEO Angela Clements said that she “highly applauds what UNISON is doing”, and noted that credit unions “promote thrift and savings”.

John Fairhust of Payplan, which has been working with UNISON for 13 years, stressed that many people see “no alternative” to pay-day lenders, but added that “there is an alternative”.

For the Centre of Responsible Credit, Damon Gibbons called on the government to act and regulate the pay day lending market. He pointed out that, in Florida, regulation has not stopped the industry growing.

In the UK, some 14% of all pay day loans are defaulted, which is a major factor in the initial cost of credit. He also called for a ban on roll-over lending.

There for You