Trade union recognition
When a trade union and an employer agree to bargain about employment terms and conditions, the employer is said to recognise the trade union. Find out what it means if your workplace has a recognised trade union.
The role of a recognised trade union
A recognised trade union represents workers in negotiations with their employer. These negotiations will usually centre on workers terms and conditions.
When an employer recognises a trade union, it will be for bargaining on behalf of a particular group of workers. This group is often called a bargaining unit.
Rights of a recognised trade union
An independent trade unionrecognised by an employer has certain legal rights. These include the rights for its:
- officials to be given time off work by the employer to carry out their trade union duties
- members to be given time off work to take part in trade union activities
- officials to be given information by the employer that they can use in collective bargaining with the employer
- learning representatives to be given time off for their duties in relation to the learning and training of employees and to have training to carry out those duties
An independenttrade unionrecognised by an employeralso has the right to be consulted by the employer about certain issues. These include:
- health and safety matters
- when the employer is thinking about making a group of workers that includes tradeunion members redundant
- when the transfer of the employers business is being considered
- Employee information and consultation rights
- Collective redundancy consultation representatives
- Resolving problems with trade unions
Gaining trade union recognition
A trade union can become recognised by making a voluntary agreement or following a statutory procedure involving theCentral Arbitration Committee (CAC).
If your employer does not recognise a trade union in your workplace, then a trade union can become recognised by making a voluntary agreement with your employer. This is the way most recognition arrangements in the UK are established.
If your employer will not make a voluntary agreement with a trade union, then the trade union can follow a statutory procedure for recognition. The statutory procedure applies to employers that have 21 or more workers.
To follow the statutory procedure, the trade union must first write to your employer requesting recognition.
The role of the CAC
If your employer doesnt agree to recognisea trade union, the trade union can apply to theCAC for recognition to be awarded for a particular bargaining unit (group of workers).
When the trade union applies to the CACit will say what it thinks the bargaining unit should be. If the employer disagrees and no agreement can be reached, the CAC will decide what it should be.
Support for applications to the CAC
The CAC will look at anyapplications against a number of criteria, many of which relate to the strength of support for recognition among the workers in the bargaining unit. For example, the CAC cannot proceed with an application if fewer than 10 per cent of those workers are members of the tradeunion.
If you are in the bargaining unit, the trade union canto write to you for supportfor their application, whether or not you are a trade union member.
If50 per cent or fewer ofworkers ina bargaining unit are trade union members, the CAC will hold a secret ballot to find out how much support the trade union has. The CAC can only award recognition if:
- 40 per cent of all the workers in the bargaining unit take part in the vote
- a majority of those vote 'yes'.
If a ballot is held, the trade union will be entitled to hold meetings with workers in the bargaining unit in the run-up to the ballot.You will be given the opportunity to vote, even if you are not a member of the tradeunion. The ballotmay involve voting in the workplace or voting by post.
If the CAC awards recognition toa trade union,your employer is required to bargain with it over your pay, hours and holidays for at least three years. After this three-year period, the employer or workers in the bargaining unit can apply to the CAC to derecognise the trade union (remove theneed to bargain with the trade union).
The statutory recognition and derecognition procedures are explained in full in a guide produced by the CAC.
Derecognition of a trade union
A similar procedure operates in relation to applications for derecognition of a trade union. For example, the CAC may arrange a secret ballot among the affected workforce to assess the strength of support for derecognition.
Protection of your employment rights
Your employer must not dismiss youbecause ofyour involvement or attitude towardsa trade unions application for recognition or derecognition. You are also protected against other forms of detriment (loss), for example if your employer does not give you a payrise.
- Unfair dismissal
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