Trade Unions


Our specialist expertise in the area of trade union recognition and industrial action is based on many years of advising a wide range of clients in all sectors.

From public sector bodies with established union recognition to start ups in the new economy being faced with requests for recognition for the first time, there is nothing that we have not had to consider.

Issues such as a union with apparent support in your business demanding that you allow them to negotiate, or receipt of a ballot notice on email are complex and can be unexpected or unwelcome. If you want to know what action to take, then our experts are the people you need to call.

Union recognition

For some employers this is established; it works well and allows things to be discussed and progressed. For others the opposite is true - they do not want a union in their business and want to know how it can be avoided. The challenge then is that there is a legal right, if they have sufficient support, for the union to be recognised whether you like it or not.

So, it becomes a question of risk management, of what you can do either to fight the call for recognition or to identify the issue driving it and get to the heart of the matter.

Some cases are easily resolved - the union is bluffing about its support on the ground or membership; there is a distortion in the numbers which reflects a recent recruiting drive or, a bit more legalistically, the bargaining unit proposed by the union simply does not reflect the way the business works or is managed.

To get to the heart of the issues requires expertise; time may be short, support may be rising. So, you need people who know how it fits together.

Strikes and industrial action

The ultimate step for any workforce is to stop work - the impact on a business can be huge. But the rules around strike action and picketing, dating from the 1980s, are designed to make things difficult, take time and leave the union exposed if they are not done properly.

The law is complex and has a political aspect missing in some other areas. It may sound attractive to rush to court if the ballot paper is defective or the result of the ballot is not sent to all the voters as the strict wording of the legislation requires. But, perhaps more importantly is the question of whether it is the right thing to do.

It might stop the action for now, but does it give the union leverage for the next ballot or simply create an even more toxic industrial relations environment?

In cases like this, you need lawyers with a wider perspective - not just the procedural understanding but one which allows you and them to see the bigger picture.

When is the right time to challenge the process? What advantage do you gain by contesting the status of the action or the numbers on the picket line? Questions like these need careful consideration, from a legal and a business perspective. That's where we can help. We know that once the dispute is over, you still have to work with those people, so we aim to help clients resolve disputes with a view to the long term.

Like all campaigns, pick your battles, understand the other side's motivations; that way you're far more likely to win.

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