What is meant by a ‘recognised’ trade union?

What is meant by a ‘recognised’ trade union?

What is meant by a ‘recognised’ trade union?

A trade union is said to be ‘recognised’ by an employer when it negotiates agreements with employers on behalf of workers defined as the ‘bargaining unit’ in a process called ‘collective bargaining.’

A trade union can obtain recognition in an organisation by two means: voluntary or statutory.

A union adopting voluntary means to secure recognition will contact the employer without having recourse to any legal mechanisms.

By contrast, statutory trade union recognition involves an independent trade union making a formal application to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) for recognition in organisations that employ a minimum of 21 workers.


What are the preconditions for the Central Arbitration Committee considering a trade union application?

The following requirements must be satisfied before the CAC can entertain an application from a trade union:

the trade union must have initially lodged a formal application with the relevant organisation

the union must have at least 10 per cent membership and likely to be in a position to attract majority support in a ballot.

The CAC will not accept the following applications:

  • applications from competing trade unions
  • applications in which, following the request to the CAC, the employer proposes that the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) should be involved and the trade union declines or fails to respond.
  • It is possible for unions to work together on behalf of workers in a bargaining unit.

In this instance, they will need to demonstrate that:

  • they will cooperate with each other
  • they will enter into the collective (if the employer wishes).


When will the Central Arbitration Committee grant trade union recognition?

The onus is on the trade union to show, either through a ballot or membership levels, that it has the support of most workers in the bargaining unit.

In those circumstances where the CAC makes a declaration that a trade union should be recognised for the purposes of collective bargaining, the parties must then agree a bargaining process. If this is not possible, the CAC will subject them to a procedure.

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