Union’s recognition bid rejected by Court of Appeal

Henry Chango Lopez, president of IWGB.
David Rowe/Alamy Live News

The Court of Appeal has dismissed a case brought by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which had sought to be recognised by the University of London for the purposes of collective bargaining.

In 2017 IWGB applied to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) to be recognised as a union for collective bargaining purposes by Cordant Security (the workers’ employer) and the university (as the “de facto” employer).

The union represented workers including security guards, postroom workers, audio-visual staff, porters and receptionists, who in 2017 were working at the university under an outsourced contract held by Cordant.

The CAC dismissed both applications. It stated that another trade union – Unison – was recognised by Cordant and was entitled to conduct collective bargaining on behalf of workers that fell within the IWGB’s remit; while a collective bargaining unit with the university could not be formed as it did not employ the workers directly.

The IWGB appealed against the CAC’s decision at the High Court in 2018. It contended that both decisions of the CAC were unlawful under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which permits workers the right to join trade unions and collectively bargain with their employers.

Its appeal was dismissed by the High Court. At the time the workers were still employed by Cordant, but their employment contracts have since transferred to the university under TUPE.

The appeal was then taken to the Court of Appeal, which today ruled that the IWGB had “not established any violation of the [ECHR] rights of its members or the union itself]”.

Its decision centred on the fact that Unison is already recognised by the university for collective bargaining.

Henry Chango-Lopez, IWGB general secretary, said: “We argued that when a company enters into a voluntary recognition agreement with a trade union that represents a minority of employees, it is unacceptable that another union, which represents the majority, is banned from recognition. We fear this ruling undermines the rights of workers under Article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

“Workers have a moral right to be represented by their chosen union and this decision restricts this right for many precarious workers, including key workers who throughout the pandemic have been routinely denied furlough or forced into work non-essential jobs.

“If not now, then when is the time to give these workers a collective voice? We are determined to press onwards for all our members to have the basic rights no one should have to work without and will now take the fight from the courtroom back to the workplace.”

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