Unions ‘could gain foothold via back door’

Employers have been warned that unions may be able to use the forthcoming
Information and Consultation Directive (ICD) to obtain a foothold in companies
where they have insufficient support to achieve statutory recognition.

Fraser Younson, life vice-president of the Employment Lawyers Association,
told delegates at the body’s AGM that it was in employers’ interests to
negotiate with staff representatives to reach agreement on the directive well
before it becomes law.

The directive, which will come into force for larger firms in 2005, means
employers will have to consult at an earlier stage and more fully with staff
reps over issues affecting the business such as redundancies or restructuring.

Younson said that if employers don’t agree a formal consultation framework
prior to the directive, they risk being forced to comply with the ICD’s default
model. This will place strict duties on organisations and could give unions a
chance to expand their influence.

Younson expects it will need only a relatively small number of staff to
trigger the process where employers will be forced to operate a works council.

Under the default model, to be controlled by the Central Arbitration
Committee, employers will have to: consult with works councils over the state
of the business, future plans, issues affecting job security, and on
substantial changes in contractual relations or work organisation.

On the first two areas, the consultation is defined as "the
establishment of a dialogue and exchange of views". The latter requires
consultation "with a view to reaching an agreement".

Younson said: "This goes quite a long way down the road towards
collective bargaining."

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