WorkLife

Our thoughts on the world of employment law - and beyond.

A Trade Union Victory

On Wednesday the Court of Appeal handed down an important judgment for trade unions. In the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) v Jet2.com hearing in November 2016, the issue for consideration before the Lord Justices was whether, or to what extent, Jet2.com is obliged to negotiate with BALPA about pilots’ rostering arrangements.

Background and the High Court decision


The High Court considered this issue in 2015 and held that Jet2.com, on which the specified method of collective bargaining had been imposed by the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) was not required to negotiate with BALPA over pilots’ rostering arrangements.

The specified method prohibits employers from varying the contractual terms affecting the pay, hours or holidays of the pilots, unless it had first discussed its proposals with trade unions.

Observing that matters which are not core terms of employment are deliberately excluded from the scope of statutory collective bargaining, the High Court found that non-contractual elements of Jet2.com's rostering and crewing policy document were not apt for incorporation into the pilots’ contracts of employment, and were not apt for negotiation under the specified method.

The Court of Appeal Judgment

BALPA appealed the High Court's decision. The Court of Appeal upheld BALPA's appeal and found in particular:

• that negotiations relating to pay, hours and holiday were not limited to proposals giving rise to individual contractual rights; and
• there are non-contractual factors which may also affect pay.  These include the procedures used to reward performance and the undertaking of certain shift patterns.  It would seem unusual if it was intended by Parliament that trade unions would be excluded from negotiating these terms.

Summary

The Court of Appeal decision was obviously a good result for unions and a useful clarification on how the specified method should be interpreted.  Unions will take heart from the Court's interpretation that Parliament never intended to limit the scope of matters which unions may negotiate to the extent provided for in the High Court ruling.

Employers who do not have voluntary arrangements in place will need to ensure that they consider what matters may be related to pay, hours and holiday and identify when they will need to discuss their proposals with unions.

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