Organisations should consult unions before making changes to contracts that will affect their members, the Court of Appeal has said, in a ruling that could have wide-ranging repercussions for employers.
The ruling came in a case brought by public service union Unison along with two park police officers who had been made redundant by the London Borough of Wandsworth.
In 2013 an employment tribunal decided that not only could the two officers bring unfair dismissal claims but Unison could also bring a claim over the borough’s failure to consult on the redundancies. In December 2015, the Employment Appeal Tribunal decided that none of the three parties had any right to bring a claim.
The Court of Appeal found the two officers had no right to claim unfair dismissal. However, it also decided that because of European Human Rights Legislation, Unison could take action against the borough for the failure to consult on the redundancies. It added that the union could also bring a claim if the terms and conditions of contracts or the rights of their members had been affected more generally.
Unison said the ruling would make it much harder to ignore unions when changes were being made in the workplace.
Prior to the Court of Appeal ruling, employers only had to consult with unions where the law explicitly said they must – for example, in TUPE or redundancy negotiations. The decision means unions may now need to be consulted in decisions about issues, such as holiday pay and working hours, where they affect union members.
“The message to bosses is they will have to treat their staff more fairly over pay and working conditions” said Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis. “If they fail to consult unions then they will be acting unlawfully and could be taken to court.”