30 January 2017 #Employment
Trade unions can be recognised in the workplace either voluntarily (which is most common) or following a statutory application by a trade union. Under the statutory regime, a trade union has the right to negotiate in relation to “pay, hours and holidays”.
In BALPA v Jet2.com Ltd, the Court of the Appeal decided that, under the statutory regime, the default position is that negotiations are not limited to proposals which, if agreed, would give rise to contractual employment rights and could include rostering arrangements as far as they related to pay, hours and holidays.
The Court of Appeal rejected the employer’s argument that it did not have to negotiate on the union’s proposed rostering framework because it was a threat to operational flexibility on the basis that being obliged to negotiate with the union about rostering arrangements did not mean it was obliged to agree to any arrangements harmful to its business.
Businesses need to understand that there are ways to avoid ending up in the position of the employer in this case. This can be achieved by agreeing to recognise a union on a voluntary basis or even after a union has been recognised through the statutory procedure. At each of these stages, there is an opportunity for the parties to agree on what would be within the scope of collective negotiation, and this does not have to include rostering arrangements.
This case underlines the importance of businesses making the necessary arrangements to achieve mutually acceptable solutions in the interests of good workplace relations, rather than finding themselves on the stony ground of the default statutory position.