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Trade Unions & Works Councils

Our Trade Union and Collective Rights team advises employers on all aspects of industrial relations and collective employment law.

Our team works with employers across all sectors to manage their engagement with trade unions and works councils. It has particular experience in advising on engaging with unions in the context of collective consultation exercises, union recognition applications and industrial action. It also advises on overlaps between individual and collective rights in areas such as union blacklisting, unlawful inducements relating to collective bargaining and claims for detriment or dismissal based on trade union duties or activities.

Proactive industrial relations strategies help employers avoid industrial disputes. Disputes are nevertheless sometimes unavoidable. Our team has experience of successfully defending our clients’ interests in the Central Arbitration Committee, Employment Tribunal, Employment Appeal Tribunal and High Court in such circumstances.

Collective Consultation

Our team develops proactive industrial relations strategies for businesses that need to engage in collective consultation. These take into account both legal and commercial considerations, and wider issues such as unions’ leverage campaign tactics. Its recent experience includes advising employers with heavily unionised workforces on the closure of their defined benefit pension schemes, the closure of operations at some or all of their sites in the UK and the implementation of new terms and conditions of employment by way of “fire and rehire” exercises.

For further information, please see our guides on collective redundanciesTUPE and information and consultation under the Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations 2004.

Trade Union Recognition

Our team regularly negotiates, renegotiates and advises on union recognition agreements. It also has significant experience in defending statutory recognition requests. Its experience of this includes appearing in arbitration proceedings at ACAS, acting in disputes before the Central Arbitration Committee, and representing clients in the higher courts.

Industrial Action

Proactive industrial relations strategies help employers avoid industrial action. Strikes and industrial action short of a strike are nevertheless sometimes unavoidable. Our team advises on all aspects of industrial action including union balloting, picketing, the withholding of pay, the use of agency workers, responding to unions’ leverage campaign tactics, and the strategic considerations involved in deciding whether to seek a strike injunction and applying for it.

For further information, please see our guide on industrial action.


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14 January 2021

European Works Councils are the only legally-mandated bodies for transnational information and consultation with employees in the world.

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Collective redundancy consultation – do you need to look back before moving forward?

02 December 2020

A recent European Court of Justice ruling suggests that employers should look at a “rolling” 90-day period when ascertaining whether collective redundancy consultation is required. While this has potentially significant implications, the end of the Brexit transition period may limit its fallout.

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Interim relief for employee who used union to lodge grievance over coronavirus measures

01 October 2020

In a sign of a potential rise in claims for interim relief, an Employment Tribunal has ordered the reinstatement of an employee claiming unfair dismissal for using a trade union to bring his grievance over coronavirus measures.


Industrial action

21 August 2020

Economically turbulent times resulting from coronavirus have seen an increase in trade unions’ membership and an increase in them ‘flexing their muscles’ by threatening industrial action over adverse changes in the workplace for their members.

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10 July 2020

Employers with at least 50 employees can be required to establish arrangements for informing and consulting their employees on business developments. These arrangements are commonly called ‘works councils’.

Trade union blacklisting – decision on amendment of claims ‘manifestly’ incorrect

02 July 2020

The rail operator GTR has succeeded in an appeal against employees being allowed to amend their Employment Tribunal claims to assert trade union blacklisting. The Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled that this was not merely a “re-labelling”, despite the original claims being conceptually and factually related.


Interpreting trade union rules

25 June 2020

A union did not breach its rules by commencing proceedings against a member after an apparent time limit had expired, the Court of Appeal has ruled, in a judgement illustrating the difficulty of asserting technical infringements of union rulebooks.

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Industrial action - summary judgment refused despite union’s ‘improbable’ defence

21 May 2020

The High Court has considered a case which the employer, Royal Mail, alleged was a “classic case of unballoted strike action done at the instigation and with support of local officials”. The court refused an application for summary judgment, despite finding the trade union’s defence to be “improbable”.

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