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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 and High Court 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.


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The Court of Appeal has rejected a trade union’s contention that the block on it applying to the Central Arbitration Committee for recognition because an employer already recognised another independent trade union was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

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Trade union recognition

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Trade unions exist to further the interests of their members and to help regulate their relations with their employers.

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Trade union’s ‘canny strategy’ met duty of care owed to its member

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The High Court has dismissed a claim by a trade union’s former shop steward that it failed to meet its duty of care to him after he was suspended for misconduct. The union provided sound tactical advice in circumstances where his prospects of success against his employer in court were slim.

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Suspended union activist’s application for injunction refused

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The High Court has refused a trade union activist’s application for an interim injunction to end his suspension and stop a probation hearing from considering whether he should be dismissed for his views on his new employer’s business model and his previous union activities.


Employer acted unlawfully by disciplining union activist for use of its IT systems

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European Works Councils under Irish Law

14 January 2021

European Works Councils are the only legally-mandated bodies for transnational information and consultation with employees in the world.

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