UNISON in Court of Appeal victory over employers who fail to consult unions

UNISON has won a landmark court victory today (Friday) that makes it much harder for employers to ignore staff when making major changes in the workplace.

The Court of Appeal ruling means that for the first time employers will be obliged to consult with unions around any workplace issues that affect their members.

Until now, unions only had the right to be consulted where the law required this, for example in TUPE regulations where employees transfer from one employer to another, and in redundancy cases.

The ruling means employers will also have to involve unions in issues such as those around working hours and holiday pay.

It will benefit thousands of employees whose rights at work are under threat and means that employers will face greater scrutiny over their treatment of staff, says UNISON.

The victory came about after the union took up a case involving parks police who were made redundant by the London Borough of Wandsworth.

The Court of Appeal ruled that UNISON had the right to be consulted by Wandsworth over the job losses.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “This is the second major legal victory in a week for working people. It means that employees in any workplace where there’s a union will now benefit from greater protection at work.

“The message to bosses is they will have to treat their staff more fairly over pay and working conditions. If they fail to consult unions then they will be acting unlawfully and could be taken to court.”

Notes to editors:
– UNISON brought an appeal relating to two of its members who were local authority parks police – UNISON, Vining & Ors v LB Wandsworth & the Secretary of State.
– The case related to UNISON’s claim that two of Wandsworth’s parks police had been unfairly dismissed.
– On 23 January 2013, an employment tribunal (ET) ruled that the two men could bring unfair dismissal claims. The ET also decided that their union (UNISON) could bring a claim for an alleged failure in collective consultation under section 188 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.
– On 21 December 2015, the employment appeal tribunal ruled that neither the parks police nor UNISON could bring these claims. This was on the grounds that domestic law excluded employees in ‘police service’ and their unions from those rights.
– UNISON appealed, arguing that the domestic law was incompatible with Articles 8, 11 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
– The parks police lost their claim. However, the Court of Appeal found that UNISON could not be stopped from bringing a claim in the ET over Wandsworth’s failure to consult over collective redundancies, and generally, where the terms and conditions or rights at work of those they represent are affected.
– It also ruled that UNISON had the right to be consulted under Article 11 of the ECHR and that right had been breached.
– Article 11 of the ECHR protects the right to freedom of assembly including forming trade unions. The Court of Appeal judgment confirms that those rights apply to unions, not just to individuals.
– The Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment regulations (TUPE) ensure employees’ terms and conditions are protected when a business is transferred to a new employer.

Media contacts:
Sophie Goodchild T: 0207 121 5546 M: 07767 325595 E: s.goodchild@unison.co.uk
Liz Chinchen T: 0207 121 5463 M: 07778 158175 E: l.chinchen@unison.co.uk