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Trade Unions & Works Councils

Our specialist Trade Union and Collective group advises employers on all aspects of their industrial relations, specialising in advising on managing their relationships with trade unions, European Work Councils and other collective issues. Our team is made up of lawyers recognised as leaders in the field and is headed by a former trade union official.

We work with employers in many different sectors but one thing that we always do for them is make sure our advice is tailored to their needs, taking into account not only the type of workforce they have but also the relationship they have with their union or any European works council they have. Advising in this area is not just a question of applying black letter law, it’s about having the experience of dealing with such issues before and recognising what works and what doesn’t.

Issues we advise employers on include:

  • industrial relations strategy
  • dealing with union recognition requests
  • avoiding and dealing with industrial action including picketing
  • dealing with other leverage tactics increasingly being used by unions
  • demonstrations, sit ins and protests; the ability to withhold pay and benefits
  • applications for injunctions
  • defending claims by trade union representatives of detrimental treatment and dismissal on the grounds of their status and involvement with the union
  • dealing with unwanted union requests for confidential information; drafting and amending collective agreements
  • defending claims of inducing employees to withdraw from having their terms determined by collective bargaining
  • establishing European and National Works Councils (including working with members of our international alliance in relation to the same when necessary) and
  • the management of all stages of the process to establish a European Works Council
  • ongoing compliance with and the renegotiation of existing European Works Council agreements
  • strategic planning for the future impact of Brexit on European Works Councils

Related items

Employment Appeal Tribunal confirms that an employer’s attempt to bypass collective bargaining was unlawful

10 January 2018

A recent decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) has confirmed that offers made directly by an employer to its employees risk amounting to unlawful attempts to bypass collective bargaining contrary to s145B of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. This was a costly exercise for the employer as they were ordered to pay penalties of more than £400,000.

European Works Councils under Irish Law

01 September 2017

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

The risk for employers in bypassing collective bargaining

16 March 2017

Where an employer has recognised a trade union for collective bargaining purposes, can it still put an offer directly to its employees? This was the thorny issue for consideration in a recent Employment Tribunal decision.

Industrial relations update

22 February 2017

Our summary of recent “collective” employment law developments includes the latest on the Government’s industrial action reforms, the Court of Appeal’s ruling in the Boots case concerning a “sweetheart” recognition agreement and a decision of the Central Arbitration Committee (“CAC”) upholding an information request by the trade union Unite.

Sean Dempsey comments for HR Magazine - The state of the union: The future of IR

13 February 2017

Employment law Partner, Sean Dempsey has commented in an article for HR Magazine which discusses the following question: are trade unions really representing modern workers or do they need to change with the times?

Working Effectively with Trade Unions: Post Brexit and Trade Unions Act

23 January 2017

Lewis Silkin is delighted to be speaking at the upcoming 10th Annual Conference: Working Effectively with Trade Unions : Post-Brexit and Trade Unions Act in London on 1 February.

The Trade Union Act 2016 - the year ahead

04 January 2017

Although the Trade Union Act 2016 (the “Act”) became law in May last year, further legislation is needed to flesh out some of its reforms and bring them into force. Now that the Government has begun publishing this additional legislation and updating related Codes of Practice, we take a look below at some areas where the impact of the Act’s reforms is likely to become clearer over the year ahead.

European Works Councils under UK Law

15 December 2016

European Works Councils are becoming increasingly common as a forum to negotiate pan-European issues.

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