NUJ fails to get rival union derecognised

The NUJ has lost its High Court bid to have the British Association of Journalists, which represents staff on Mirror Group Newspapers’ sports division titles, derecognised.

The NUJ argued that the substantial majority of around 130 staff on the sports division titles, which includes the Racing Post, would support it being recognised for collective bargaining instead of the BAJ.

It challenged the decision of the body that adjudicates on these matters, the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC), which refused the NUJ’s application to be recognised by MGN for collective bargaining purposes.

Mr Justice Hodge said he could see nothing “wrong or perverse” in the decision of the CAC, adding that if the law needed changing it was for the industrial and Parliamentary process to do it, not the courts.

“The decision of the CAC was neither wrong in law nor perverse. It decided correctly that the claimant’s application was not admissible,” he said.

“The effect has been that a trade union with a substantial number of members who are workers in a particular bargaining unit has been shut out from entering into collective bargaining on their behalf by a voluntary agreement entered into between the employer and another union with a very limited membership.”

However, he said whether this needed to be addressed was a matter for the industrial and Parliamentary process and not for the court.

In the decision under challenge, the CAC ruled that MGN had done nothing wrong in recognising the BAJ.

The CAC observed in its ruling: “The employer has been able to defeat what are in all probability the wishes of a majority of the relevant workforce by the simple expedient of concluding a voluntary recognition agreement with a wholly unrepresentative union.”

The NUJ had claimed that the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 should and could be construed to avoid the injustice identified by the CAC in this case, and that, if that is not the case, then the legislation is incompatible with the European Court of Human Rights.

Permission for the NUJ to appeal was refused by the judge, who said the case did not raise points of wide public importance and added that he did not consider an appeal would have “a wide prospect of success”.

However, it is still open to the NUJ to apply direct to the Appeal Court for permission to challenge the ruling.

By Roger Pearson

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