Trade Union Bill Committee

Written evidence submitted by Todd Bailey (TUB 02)

1. Summary. Under UK law, unions cannot force employer recognition if an employer already recognises another union voluntarily, no matter how few employees are members of the other union. I urge the House of Commons to amend the Trade Union Bill so as to ensure that an employer could not conspire with an unpopular union to perpetuate self-serving collective bargaining arrangements that lack substantive employee support.

2. Introduction. I write as an academic employed in a Russell Group university, with some 10 years’ experience as an officer in the union’s local branch. I am currently also an elected representative on my union’s national executive committee. Although my university colleagues generally appreciate the efforts I make to represent their interests to management, many of these colleagues do not believe that "the union" as a whole reflects their views. Some have talked of starting an alternative union that would be more representative of the workforce, but the legal framework makes it hard for a new union to win recognition by an employer.

3. Statutory recognition. According to the gov.uk web site, a union can force a reluctant employer to recognise the union by applying for ‘statutory recognition’. The union must have a certain level of membership, along with evidence that most employees are in favour of recognition. However, the union cannot apply for statutory recognition if there’s already a recognition agreement that allows another union to represent employees in the bargaining unit. The web site referred to here is at
https://www.gov.uk/trade-union-recognition-employers/statutory-recognition

4. Example 1. A new provider enters the higher education market, and its employees ask their employer to recognise Union A. The employer could pre-emptively enter into a voluntary recognition agreement with Union B, even if not a single employee is a member of Union B. In that case the employees could not force their employer to recognise Union A, even if 100% of employees were members of Union A, favoured recognition of Union A, and believed that Union B would not represent their interests well.

5. Example 2. A university with a large medical school employs many doctors and pays them the same rates they would earn in the National Health Service (NHS), on a pay scale which is separate from that used for other employees. The British Medical Association (BMA) asks the university for recognition, but the university refuses. If the university already has a voluntary recognition agreement with some union, there is no way for the doctors employed by the university to force the university to recognise the BMA.

6. Conclusion. Although the principle of self-determination means that peoples have the right to be governed by their own consent, as in the Falkland Islands, for example, or Gibralter, Northern Ireland, or Scotland, under UK law workers do not have the right to choose which union will represent them in collective bargaining with their employer. The Trade Union Bill should be amended to allow employees to determine which union represents them in collective bargaining.

September 2015

Prepared 14th October 2015