(in employment law) A statutory procedure introduced by the Employment Relations Act 1999 and amended by the Employment Relations Act 2004 by which a trade union can secure the legal right to enter into collective bargaining with an employer. As well as the benefit the trade union and its members secure from the fact of bargaining, a recognized trade union becomes entitled to all employment rights bestowed by employment legislation on recognized trade unions. The new procedure enables unions to seek statutory recognition for collective bargaining if they fail to secure a voluntary agreement with the employer concerned.
The statutory procedure is given in Schedule A1 (as amended) of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. Statutory recognition can be requested by one or more independent trade unions, in the first instance from the employer. Such an approach (often with the assistance of ACAS) may result in a voluntary agreement being made between the parties. Following a failure to arrive at a voluntary agreement a trade union may then refer the request to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC). If satisfied that the trade union has at least 10% membership among the group of workers it is seeking to represent, the CAC will then proceed to establish the viability of the union's request.
The CAC must satisfy itself that the proposed bargaining union is an appropriate unit and take into account such factors as the need for effective management, the relative views of the parties to the dispute, the existing national and local arrangements for bargaining, and the need to avoid fragmentation of existing bargaining units. Crucially the CAC must determine that the necessary support exists at the workplace for collective bargaining. In determining this issue a ballot may be held. However, if the CAC is satisfied that a majority of the workers in the unit are currently members of the applicant union, it may decide that a ballot is not needed. If a ballot is held (and it must be held if less than 50% of the workers are union members), the result must show that a majority of those voting support the union and that those voting in favour constitute at least 40% of the workers in the bargaining unit. The CAC then issues a declaration that the union is entitled to recognition on the basis either that a majority of the workers are union members or that a majority support collective bargaining. When this declaration has been made, the parties are given 30 days to negotiate a method of conducting collective bargaining. Failure to arrive at an agreement will result in a further reference to the CAC. If after a further period of arbitration no voluntary agreement can be reached by the parties, the CAC is empowered to specify a method for collective bargaining. This method then takes effect as a legally binding agreement between the parties.
The statutory procedure also contains provisions for the derecognition of a trade union. Where recognition has been secured via the statutory route, distinct procedures are laid down for the removal of such recognition. Normally derecognition is not possible within the first three years of any award of recognition arising from a voluntary agreement. However, special procedures exist for cases in which the relevant employees fall below 21 in number, the employees request derecognition, the employer requests derecognition, and the union ceases to be independent.