Caution brings slow rate of union claims

The first disputed cases of statutory union recognition have come at a slower rate than expected as unions exercise caution.

Sir Michael Burton, chairman of the Central Arbitration Committee, which mediates in contested recognition cases, said it had only had nine applications in its four months of new powers.

When the CAC came into force with the union recognition section of the Employment Relations Act in June, it was planning for as many as 150 cases in the first year. The CAC has nine deputy chairmen and 32 members representing employers and employees. There has been a major expansion of the committee and staff to take on the expected workload.

“We are delighted with this as it will ease us into our task less frenetically than we had feared. Probably the reason for it is the enormous number of voluntary agreements,” he told delegates.

“Unions are being cautious in the cases they bring to the CAC because the process is complex and the three-year bar is a powerful incentive to unions to get their application as well prepared as possible. Either way, I expect the pace to quicken through the autumn.”

The DTI’s director of collective employment rights Jonathan Startup said ministers were not disappointed at the small number of cases. “If this is evidence of caution before going down this route then it is well and good as this was what the legislation was intended to do.”

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