05 April 2019 #Employment
The High Court has refused an application made by Birmingham City Council for an injunction to prevent strike action by Unite and Unison.
The Council had planned a restructure which would have created redundancies. Unite and Unison balloted for strike action in response. GMB did not ballot their members. The restructure was averted and collective agreements signed with Unite and Unison. GMB members received a payment in settlement of claims for non-consultation.
Unite and Unison argued the payments to GMB members were actually rewards for not taking industrial action and asked for parity for their members. When this was refused, they balloted for further strike action which the Council sought to prevent by way of an injunction.
Unions are protected against tortious liability for encouraging employees to breach their contracts and go on strike provided certain conditions are met. However, unions will not have this protection if their actions are motivated by the fact or belief that an employer has failed to discriminate against non-members. The Council argued that the unions’ actions here were because it refused to discriminate against non-members (i.e. the GMB members).
The Court found this stretched the exclusion too far from its original purpose of preventing unions from forcing people to join and the real reason for action was to achieve parity between members (and thus did relate to discrimination faced by Unison and Unite members). The action was therefore outside the exclusion and the injunction was refused.