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Employer acceptance of a trade union as the authorized representative of the workforce. Recognition is usually inscribed in a formal recognition agreement that states the rights and obligations of the recognized trade union. Within such an agreement, the terms of recognition might include the right of the union to recruit and organize workers, the entitlements of its representatives to time off work (see facilities agreement), the right of the union to represent its members in company procedures, and the right to negotiate collectively on the workforce's behalf. The agreement might also specify the limits to union recognition, such as being confined to workers within a particular bargaining unit or that it excludes particular issues or categories of decision which remain subject to the management prerogative. The extent of recognition rights can vary substantially; in some companies, recognition will be restricted to the right of the union to recruit and represent members, while in others, it will embrace collective bargaining and joint consultation. In the early 1970s, approximately three-quarters of UK workers were covered by trade union recognition agreements but this percentage has dropped substantially in the intervening period. Today, only a third of employees work in organizations where unions are recognized for the purpose of pay bargaining. The passage of the Employment Relations Act 1999, however, seems to be halting the downward trend in union recognition and in recent years there have been a number of prominent recognition deals signed by trade unions. The Act introduced a statutory recognition procedure which unions can use to secure recognition in the face of employer opposition. Under the procedure, an employer is required to recognize a union for the purpose of collective bargaining on pay, hours, and holiday entitlement if either of two conditions apply. The first is that the union can demonstrate that it has more than 50 per cent of the proposed bargaining unit in membership, while the second is that the union has won a majority in a recognition ballot in which at least 40 per cent of the workforce took part. The operation of this statutory recognition procedure is overseen by the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC). Although there is now a legal route to recognition, many recognition agreements are voluntary and unions prefer to use the legislation as a means of pressing employers to concede a voluntary recognition agreement. [See certification and derecognition.]

Subjects: Human Resource Management.

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