The statutory trade union recognition procedures are well known within the HR and business community - indeed when they first came into force on 6 June 2000 some businesses had some sleepless nights worrying about recognition being "forced" upon them. In reality, since that time, the CAC has quietly gone about its business, applications for recognition have been made, some have been successful and some have not. But until now the CAC have never issued a decision under the de-recognition provisions.
In a case that did receive some press coverage at the time, the Pharmacists' Defence Association Union (PDAU) applied to the CAC in 2012 seeking recognition for collective bargaining purposes. At that time Boots argued against the application because they already recognised a non independent trade union - Boots Pharmacists' Association (BPA) - to represent pharmacists on a variety of matters although that did not include pay, hours or holidays. If a business has already recognised a union, the CAC cannot accept an application for a different trade union representing the same workers. Legal action looking at whether the BPA's limited recognition prevented PDAU being recognised for collective bargaining on other matters (including pay, hours and holidays) and on whether Article 11 of ECHR was breached (right to freedom of association including joining a trade union and collective bargaining) was taken that ended in the Court of Appeal. The Court ruled that there was no breach of Article 11 specifically because of the availability of the de-recognition procedures - if PDAU could trigger BPA's de-recognition they could then make an application for recognition themselves.
Subsequently in Parker and others v Boots Pharmacists' Association a group of pharmacists (with the support of PDAU) made an application to the CAC that a secret ballot should be held to determine whether the bargaining arrangements between the BPA and Boots should be ended. In a decision dated 15 November 2017 the CAC decided the application met the statutory admissibility requirements and should be accepted. The CAC listed the reasons for reaching their decision as being:-
• Sustained high level membership of PDAU which the CAC found on the facts of this case could be taken to mean a desire for the BPA to be de-recognised;
• Lower and reducing levels of membership of the non-independent BPA;
• The silence of those who had chosen not to join the BPA despite active encouragement of the BPA and Boots;
• Vocal and influential support of activists and social media commentators;
• Underlying industrial relations issues; and
• The very limited scope and reach of the existing arrangements between Boots and the BPA that do not extend to pay, hours and holidays and which are preventing an independent union from seeking recognition.
Following a decision that an application is admissible, the CAC must help the employer, union and the worker(s) who made the application during a 20 day negotiation period with a view to either the employer and union agreeing to end the bargaining arrangements or the worker withdrawing the application. The 20 day period can be extended but if negotiations are ultimately unsuccessful the CAC must then arrange for the requested ballot to take place. It will only be if a majority of those voting, and at least 40% of the workers in the bargaining unit, vote in favour of an end to the existing arrangements that de-recognition will take place.