Union recognition requests doubled over the past year

The number of applications by trade unions for statutory recognition has
doubled in the past year.

The Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) received 118 applications for union
recognition in 2001-02, compared to just 57 for the previous year.

Under the Employment Relations Act, a trade union may apply to the CAC for a
declaration that it should be recognised to conduct collective bargaining on
behalf of employees at a workplace.

The CAC’s operations manager John Thorpe, speaking last week after the
publication of the body’s annual report, said he believes the increase in
applications is mainly because unions are becoming more confident about using
the process.

"I think it [the increase] comes down to two reasons. First during the
first financial year we operated for just 10 months, and second in the first
four months of operations we had few applications. I think this could be put
down to a degree of caution on the unions’ part," he said.

In all, 111 of the applications were decided at the first stage of the
process, with 99 granted and 12 rejected. The other applications were
withdrawn, sometimes after the parties agreed to voluntary recognition.

CAC chairman Sir Michael Burton said he believed the organisation is
progressing well and is one of the reasons for the increase in voluntary
recognition agreements reached between unions and employers.

"This [voluntary recognition] gives unions most of what they seek,
while releasing employers from the time-consuming and sometimes confrontational
statutory process," he said.

The CAC’s annual report shows that despite the increased workload, the cost
of running the body has remained fairly static. Total expenditure for the year
to 31 March was just under £1.2m, compared to £1m in the previous year.


By Quentin Reade

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