Union rules given only six weeks for review

The Government has given employers just six weeks to respond to the biggest
change in employment relations in more than a decade.

The Department of Trade & Industry last week published a consultation
document on two key aspects of trade union recognition procedures – but has
given a deadline of 20 March to respond.

The release of the paper follows the launch of Personnel Today’s campaign
calling for better consultation to prevent new laws being rushed in without
proper consideration.

David Yeandle, deputy director of employment policy at the Engineering
Employers’ Federation, said aspects of trade union recognition – such as access
to staff – posed possible difficulties.

He said employers should have the chance to fully consider the consultation
document.

"There are no European pressures and it is complex and potentially
contentious.

"They would have been better advised to take that bit longer and give a
full two months’ consultation."

A CBI spokesman said he could not comment as the document had only just been
received.

Jewson HR director Tom Flemming said the consultation period was
unreasonable for "something complicated that is 30 pages long".

"Again we have been given six weeks to consult and one month to
implement it. It smacks of being driven by a timetable rather than a need to
get it right," he said.

A spokeswoman for the DTI said there had been wide ranging informal
consultation over the planned law since 1997.

The Employment Relations Act allows for trade unions to be recognised or
derecognised if sufficient staff are in favour.

The Act gained Royal Assent last summer and the Government plans to bring in
the provisions relating to trade union recognition shortly after Easter.

Copies of the consultation are available on the Web.

By Helen Rowe

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

www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts1999/19990026.htm

The consultation: six key points

• Preparations for trade union access to employees should begin as soon as
possible

• The employer should not dismiss the union’s proposals for access unless it
considers them unreasonable. If it does reject them, it should offer
alternative arrangements – preferably within two working days

• If employer and union fail to agree access arrangements, either party may
ask the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service to conciliate

• If there is deadlock, the Central Arbitration Committee may be asked to
assist. If there is still no agreement, the committee will adjudicate and make
an order

• Employers should be prepared to allow full-time union officials access to
employees during less busy work periods

• Where there is no voluntary agreement, a method of collective bargaining
may be imposed by the committee. Failure to comply will constitute contempt of
court

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