Previously on the GMB/Amazon saga. GMB union initiated the procedure to have themselves recognised as Amazon Coventry’s trade union following a period of strike action. We wrote a blog advising Amazon of their options (still waiting on that initial meeting Amazon…). We published that blog on 28 April 2023, at which point Amazon were in the midst of a 10-day period to consider the terms put forward by GMB. It’s now June, the terms have yet to be accepted and I’m sure Amazon are eagerly anticipating a follow up to provide further clarification on their options.
We had illustrated the three routes that Amazon could take following this period – accept, reject or negotiate. As you have likely anticipated – they have not accepted. So, what happens next?
The next stage, as GMB have already reported doing, would be for the union to make an application to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC). The big question that Amazon, or indeed any employer faced with this situation, will be asking is what is the role of the CAC in this process?
Once it has received an application for recognition, the CAC takes an approach in line with the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULRCA 1992). This imposes a duty on the CAC to have regard to “the object of encouraging and promoting fair and efficient practices and arrangements in the workplace.”
In doing so, the CAC will look to be even handed in their application of the legislation to try and be as user friendly as possible for both the employer and the trade union. They will take a flexible approach, seeking to help the parties reach voluntary agreements if possible as opposed to the statutory procedure. With that in mind, they will use a mixture of both formal and informal processes with each party to try and establish what the underlying issues are help the parties to reach an agreement.
From an employer’s perspective, there are several things to be aware of during this process. First, there is not a clear duty of confidentiality. Although the CAC acknowledges that either party may wish for certain information to be put forward confidentially, where that information relates to key facts that could influence a decision on recognition, the interests of fairness may require them to make it available. In this regard, employer’s should be aware that any information may be challenged or checked by the other side during the process.
Secondly, there is no requirement for union recognition to be determined by a hearing – if the CAC is minded that there does not appear to be a material dispute, they can make a decision based on the submissions of the party alone. If a hearing is required, it is expected to last no longer than one day and will generally be held in public unless the circumstances dictate otherwise.
Employer’s should also be aware of their obligations to meet the requirements set by their case manager. A failure to comply with any time limits set in this regard must be detailed within the case manager’s report, allowing the CAC to draw an adverse inference against the party concerned.
Once the CAC make their final decision on whether an employer need recognise a union, there is no right of appeal. However, their decisions are still subject to judicial review which can be taken to the Court of Appeal.
Once again, you’re welcome Amazon.
The process of trade union recognition can be a complex area for employers to navigate. Although much of the process will fall out of their hands once the CAC become involved, employers should use their best efforts to comply with their obligations.
If you have any questions on this on any other area of Employment law, please get in touch with Blackadders Employment Team, working across Scotland.