Union recognition – the key requirements
It has been reported that GMB Union believe they are ‘on the cusp’ of becoming a recognised union for workers at Amazon’s distribution centre in Coventry. We take a look at the key requirements that a Union has to comply with if they wish to gain statutory recognition.
Request for recognition
In order to pursue statutory recognition, the trade union must first make a valid written request for recognition to the employer, identifying the proposed bargaining unit. The bargaining unit is the group of employees on behalf of which the Union is proposing to carry out collective bargaining. A request will not be valid if the employer employs fewer than 21 employees.
The employer may accept the proposed recognition request or negotiate with the trade union regarding the terms of recognition. The parties are free to agree the matters which will be subject to collective bargaining under the voluntary recognition agreement.
Application for statutory recognition
If, 10 working days after the written request, the employer rejects the trade union’s request for recognition or fails to respond, the trade union may apply to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC). For the application to be admissible:
- The application must be made using the CAC’s application form, supported by specified documents.
- The union must give notice of the application, a copy of the application and of any documents supporting it to the employer.
- The CAC must be satisfied that:
- at least 10% of the workers in the bargaining unit are members of the union; and
- a majority of workers in the bargaining unit would be likely to be in favour of the union conducting collective bargaining on their behalf.
Consideration of the application
Once the CAC has accepted an application for recognition, the CAC must consider whether a majority of the bargaining unit are members of the union.
If it is satisfied that a majority of the workers in the bargaining unit are members of the union the CAC must issue a declaration that the union is recognised as entitled to conduct collective bargaining on behalf of the bargaining unit. However, there are some circumstances in which the CAC must arrange a secret ballot. These include, for example, where membership evidence leads the CAC to doubt whether a significant number of the union members want the union to conduct collective bargaining on their behalf.
Issues for collective bargaining
Collective bargaining resulting from the statutory recognition procedure only covers negotiations on pay, hours and holidays. However, the union and employer are entitled to agree to include additional matters.
In order to start the process for statutory recognition, a Union will need to be satisfied that it has sufficient members in the proposed bargaining unit, and that the majority of those members would be in favour of the Union conducting collective bargaining on their behalf. GMB has reportedly estimated that nearly 700 of 1,300 workers at the Amazon distribution centre in Coventry have joined the Union, and it says that it has met the threshold for statutory recognition.
Once a request for recognition has been made by a Union, in some cases, employers may prefer to reach a voluntary recognition agreement rather than have statutory recognition imposed on them by the CAC. Other employers may choose to reject the request and await the outcome of the statutory recognition process. It remains to be seen what approach Amazon will take.
26 April 2023
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