Recognising and derecognising a trade union

Statutory derecognition of a trade union: falling union membership in the bargaining unit

Guide

Sometimes, a trade union obtains statutory recognition without a ballot because more than 50 per cent of the bargaining unit were union members.

If you recognised a union under these circumstances but you believe that union membership in the bargaining unit has since fallen to below 50 per cent, you can - after at least three years of recognition - apply to the Industrial Court to hold a secret ballot to decide whether recognition should end.

Your request to the union

Before applying to the Industrial Court, you must make a request to the union, asking it to voluntarily end collective bargaining arrangements.

To be valid, your request must:

  • be in writing
  • be received by the union
  • identify the bargaining arrangements
  • state that fewer than half the workers in the bargaining unit are members of the union
  • state that the request is made under Schedule 1A of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1995

Once the union receives your request, you and the union - 'the parties' - have ten working days, starting with the day after the union receives your request, to agree to end the bargaining arrangements.

During this ten-day period, the parties may request the assistance of the LRA in their negotiations. The parties can agree to extend this period as required.

If - before the end of this period - the parties agree to end the bargaining arrangements, the matter ends there.

Your application to the Industrial Court

If the parties fail to agree to end the bargaining arrangements before the end of the ten-day period, you may apply to the Industrial Court for the holding of a secret ballot to decide whether or not collective bargaining should end.

The Industrial Court will only accept your ballot application if:

  • it is made in the proper form
  • you have copied the application and any supporting documents to the union
  • fewer than half the workers in the bargaining unit are members of the union
  • there hasn't been a previous application for an end to the bargaining arrangements in the last three years

The Industrial Court's decision following your application

Starting with the day after it receives your application, the Industrial Court normally has ten working days to decide whether or not your request to the union is valid or your application to the Industrial Court is admissible.

If the Industrial Court decides that you have failed to meet either or both of these requirements, it will not accept your application and the issue ends there.

If the Industrial Court decides that you have met both of these requirements, it will accept your application and arrange for the holding of a secret ballot - see statutory derecognition of a trade union - derecognition ballots.