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Trade union recognition

Updating author: Nick Chronias, DAC Beachcroft


  • Prior to the implementation of the Employment Relations Act 1999, a union could not compel an employer to recognise it for collective bargaining.
  • An employer may voluntarily recognise a union to conduct collective bargaining. (See Voluntary recognition)
  • An employer may be compelled under the provisions of the Employment Relations Act 1999 to recognise a union for collective bargaining on pay, hours and holidays. (See Preconditions for obtaining compulsory recognition and The recognition process)
  • The Employment Relations Act 1999 also allows for a hybrid form of voluntary recognition. This occurs if, following an application by a union for recognition under the Act, an employer concedes recognition prior to the union's application being determined by the Central Arbitration Committee. In this case an "agreement for recognition" will arise which the employer cannot abandon at will. (See The recognition process)
  • In order to apply for compulsory recognition certain requirements must be satisfied. In particular only "independent" unions may apply for recognition in circumstances where the employer has at least 21 workers and has not already recognised another union, and where evidence exists that a majority of the employer's workers would be likely to favour recognition. (See Preconditions for obtaining compulsory recognition)
  • Detailed provisions govern the compulsory recognition process which is conducted under the control of the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC). Applications for compulsory recognition are made by reference to "bargaining units" which must be agreed or determined by the CAC. (See The recognition process)
  • If compulsory recognition is granted it cannot be abandoned at will by the employer. (See Derecognition)

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