High-profile judge set to take committee top job

Sir Michael Burton, a high court judge with a track record in high-profile industrial
disputes, has been appointed as the new chairman of the Central Arbitration
Committee.

As the CAC prepares for a major role in the forthcoming battles over union
recognition, the choice of Burton to head the organisation is believed to be
making some in the union movement uneasy.

Sir Michael acted for News International during the Wapping dispute and for
Nottinghamshire miners who refused to take part in the 1984-85 strike.

A spokeswoman for the TUC said, "Our preference was for someone with a
background in industrial relations. However we recognise that there is a case
for having a judicial figure."

Although Sir Michael’s appointment has been widely trailed, the Department
of Trade and Industry this week refused to confirm the decision. In the 1970s,
Sir Michael stood for Labour as a council candidate.

If the appointment is confirmed, he will replace Sir John Wood, who retired
last summer.

The CAC will rule on union recognition claims when new legislation comes
into force later this year. It has previously been restricted to cases where
employees claim they have not been informed of redundancy plans.

This week some flesh has been put on the bones of the CAC’s position
following the publication of a DTI consultation paper on union recognition.

If there is a disagreement on arrangements for union access to staff during
a recognition or derecognition ballot, either side can first go to Acas.

But if there is deadlock the CAC may be asked to assist and if an agreement
still cannot be brokered the CAC has the power to make an order.

By Helen Rowe

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