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Trade Unions & Works Councils

Our Trade Union and Collective Rights team advises employers on all aspects of industrial relations and collective employment law.

Our team works with employers across all sectors to manage their engagement with trade unions and works councils. It has particular experience in advising on engaging with unions in the context of collective consultation exercises, union recognition applications and industrial action. It also advises on overlaps between individual and collective rights in areas such as union blacklisting, unlawful inducements relating to collective bargaining and claims for detriment or dismissal based on trade union duties or activities.

Proactive industrial relations strategies help employers avoid industrial disputes. Disputes are nevertheless sometimes unavoidable. Our team has experience of successfully defending our clients’ interests in the Central Arbitration Committee, Employment Tribunal, Employment Appeal Tribunal, High Court and Court of Appeal in such circumstances.

Collective Consultation

Our team develops proactive industrial relations strategies for businesses that need to engage in collective consultation. These take into account both legal and commercial considerations, and wider issues such as unions’ leverage campaign tactics. Its recent experience includes advising employers with heavily unionised workforces on the closure of their defined benefit pension schemes, the closure of operations at some or all of their sites in the UK and the implementation of new terms and conditions of employment by way of “fire and rehire” exercises.

For further information, please see our guides on collective redundanciesTUPE and information and consultation under the Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations 2004.

Trade Union Recognition

Our team regularly negotiates, renegotiates and advises on union recognition agreements. It also has significant experience in defending statutory recognition requests. Its experience of this includes appearing in arbitration proceedings at ACAS, acting in disputes before the Central Arbitration Committee, and representing clients in the higher courts.

For further information, please see our guide on trade union recognition.

Industrial Action

Proactive industrial relations strategies help employers avoid industrial action. Strikes and industrial action short of a strike are nevertheless sometimes unavoidable. Our team advises on all aspects of industrial action including union balloting, picketing, the withholding of pay, the use of agency workers, responding to unions’ leverage campaign tactics, and the strategic considerations involved in deciding whether to seek a strike injunction and applying for it.

For further information, please see our guide on industrial action.


Related items

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Industrial action

22 November 2022

Economically turbulent times resulting from coronavirus have seen an increase in trade unions’ membership and an increase in them ‘flexing their muscles’ by threatening industrial action over adverse changes in the workplace for their members.

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When can a mistake not be corrected? Court of Appeal rules collective agreements are not capable of rectification

03 November 2022

A recent Court of Appeal decision has confirmed that employers cannot seek rectification of mistakes in collective agreements. Where agreements with unions about terms and conditions have been wrongly recorded, employers will be limited to seeking to rectify relevant employees’ individual employment contracts in as far as they incorporate the mistaken terms.

Bill to mandate minimum service levels during transport strikes published

25 October 2022

Against a backdrop of prolonged national rail strikes, the government has proposed a complex new legal framework to ensure minimum service levels are maintained on transport services during industrial action.

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Cost-of-living crisis: frequently asked questions

04 October 2022

As the cost-of-living crisis bites, a growing number of employers are facing demands for pay increases at best, and threats of strikes at worst. This article addresses some employment law implications arising from steps being taken to manage the situation.

Train strikes: David Hopper interviewed on BBC’s Newsnight

19 August 2022

Lewis Silkin’s Industrial Relations specialist David Hopper was interviewed by Newsnight in relation to the current train strikes.

Court of Appeal overturns injunction restraining employer’s ‘fire and rehire’ exercise

18 July 2022

The Court of Appeal has overturned an injunction preventing Tesco from “firing and rehiring” employees in order to remove their contractual entitlement to enhanced pay. Despite the facts of this case being unusual and extreme, the High Court had been wrong to conclude that Tesco could not adopt its proposed course of action.

Unions’ financial liability increased and government moves to repeal agency worker ban

30 June 2022

Against a backdrop of widespread industrial action, the government has quadrupled unions’ potential liability for calling unlawful strikes to £1,000,000. It has also published legislation to repeal the ban on agencies supplying workers to fill in for striking staff.


When is collective bargaining exhausted and a direct offer of new employment terms allowed? The EAT confirms an objective test

21 June 2022

In the first reported application of the Supreme Court’s landmark Kostal decision, the Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled that an employer could not unilaterally declare that its negotiations with its recognised trade union had finished. As unionised employers may only make direct offers to employees after exhausting their collective bargaining procedure, the employer now faces punitive fines.

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