‘Open’ approach allows us to see the implications

Organisations and employers can learn some early lessons from the way the CAC is handling the first of the union recognition applications. Although the statutory union recognition procedure came into force on 6 June 2000, only 16 applications for recognition have so far been submitted to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC), which is handling these cases.

This largely reflects the fact that most unions have been concentrating their efforts and relatively limited resources on seeking to achieve voluntary agreements.

The CAC is operating in a fairly "open" manner with information about each application, including details of all written decisions of CAC panels, available at the organisation’s web site at www.cac.gov.uk

This, together with the fact that three of this first group of applications have involved our members, has meant that the Engineering Employers’ Federation has been able to obtain an early indication of how the CAC is handling these applications.

It has also enabled us to identify some practical implications for companies which become involved in this complex procedure.

The first, and perhaps most important, implication is that once an application for recognition has been submitted to the CAC, things can move very quickly.

In particular, relatively tight timetables are imposed within which the company has to respond to detailed questions from the CAC panel which has been appointed to handle the application and the CAC case manager.

This can, therefore, place considerable burdens on the time of the company’s senior managers and their advisers if they are to defend their point of view properly.

Second, the CAC would appear to be adopting a relatively informal and hands-on approach, including some – although, interestingly, not all – members of the CAC panel and the CAC case manager sometimes visiting the company involved to discuss the case.

Also, and as the EEF had always anticipated, the CAC seems very keen to encourage the voluntary resolution of differences between the parties with the support of either the CAC panel itself or officials from Acas.

Third, the role of the CAC case managers would appear to be very important. They are responsible for preparing papers for, and submitting information to, the CAC panel and are the principal point of contact with the company.

It is therefore vital for companies and their advisers to maintain a close working relationship with the CAC case manager who is handling their application in order to understand the complex union recognition procedure, the function and role of the CAC and the way in which the CAC panel will be handling their case.

Lastly, a recent decision in a case involving an EEF member has confirmed that a union’s application for recognition will not be accepted by the CAC if the company has already reached a recognition agreement with another union even if, as in this case, this agreement was signed only a few days before the union’s application was submitted to the CAC.


  • By David Yeandle is director of employment policy at the Engineering Employers’ Federation

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