Our employer already recognises a staff association for our grade of workers, but we think our union should be recognised. Can we submit a claim to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC)?

If the staff association is not an independent trade union, an application can be made for de-recognition. The rules are complicated and can be found in Schedule 1A to the Trade Union and Labour Relations Consolidation Act 1992: Collective Bargaining: Recognition. They depend on how long the staff association has been recognised.

If an existing recognised union does not hold a certificate of independence and the existing recognition agreement is at least three years old, that recognition agreement cannot stop an application for recognition to the CAC by an independent union.

However, if the recognition agreement is less than three years old, derecognition without the employer’s agreement is only possible if an existing worker launches an application for derecognition. The independent union itself cannot launch this application.

You may be interested to know that this issue is being challenged in the courts in litigation by the Pharmacists Defence Association Union against pharmaceutical giant Boots. One of the union’s main arguments is that it is a breach of the human right to freedom of association to prevent an independent union from seeking the derecognition of a 'sweetheart' union (a union that is not independent of the employer).

The human right to freedom of association includes the right to belong to a union and to have that union negotiate wages and other terms and conditions on your behalf.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.