Employers fear access rules will favour unions

Employers are becoming increasingly concerned at the sweeping proposed
rights of access for unions to company facilities during recognition campaigns.

Under proposals currently out to consultation unions will have the right to
use the company intranet and meeting rooms at least as much as the employer to
discuss the recognition issue.

Martin Warren, partner at law firm Eversheds, said he is aware of dozens of
companies concerned about this principle of equality of access.

"There is concern about elevating third-party union communication to
the same level as direct employer-employee communications," Warren said.

He is advising employers to avoid a compulsory ballot at all costs, because
it is only once the statutory process begins that the union would gain formal
rights.

"Employers thinking about bringing forward communication campaigns
should do so, rather than leave the real debate until the ballot is ordered.
They can have the debate before the union has the right of access."

The Employers’ Forum on Statute and Practice protested at the requirement in
the draft code of conduct to seek an agreement with a union over rights of
access.

"This seems to pre-judge the outcome," said chief executive Robbie
Gilbert.

"You have to begin by endeavouring to achieve an agreement, when the
whole process is one where the employer does not feel this is appropriate – or
it would not have reached this stage."

Compulsory recognition legislation is due to come into effect in May,
although Personnel Today has learned that implementation may slip to 1 June.

Tensions are likely to be particularly high at inward investors in Wales and
Scotland, where there is high union membership, but the parent company is
anti-union.

Consultation on the proposals for access during recognition closed this week.

By Philip Whiteley

www.dti.gov.uk/ir/consultz.htm

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