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British Airline Pilots’ Association v Jet2.com Ltd  EWHC 1110 (QB); (2015) EMPLR 029
23 April 2015
Queen’s Bench Division
If a trade union’s application for statutory recognition
succeeds, the employer and the union must try to agree a method of collective
bargaining. If they do not, the Central Arbitration Committee can impose a
method (the ‘Specified Method’). This is normally the ‘model’ method set out in
regulations. That requires a seven-step negotiating procedure for changes to
pay, hours of work and holiday.
The employees’ terms of employment about pay and hours provided
no entitlement to any minimum number of hours’ work. But, apart from authorised
absence and pre-booked annual leave, they had to be available for work if
required. There was a separate policy for rostering flight staff, which was
expressed in aspirational terms.
The company refused to negotiate with the union over rostering
arrangements. The union complained to the High Court that this breached the
Specified Method. The court accepted the company’s argument that the Specified
Method was only required in respect of changes to contractual terms about pay,
hours and holiday, and that the rostering arrangements were set out in a
non-contractual policy document. So there was no need for the company to
negotiate over the rostering arrangements.
The company pre-empted all negotiations with the union
over pay by writing directly to its employees stating the pay offer it was
going to make; implementing it; then holding the bare minimum number of
meetings with the union to comply with the Specified Method; and deciding in advance
of the ‘negotiation’ meetings that they would not change their stance on
anything. The pay offer was sufficiently attractive to its staff for there to
be little purpose in the union attempting to negotiate any improvement. There
was evidence to suggest that the company was motivated by dislike of trade
unions - describing them as ‘professional trouble-makers’. The union argued
this did not amount to negotiation and so breached the Specified Method. The
Court disagreed. The company had held all the required meetings. Motives of the
parties were irrelevant. The company’s wish to minimise the union’s influence
mirrored the union’s wish to maximise its influence. Both were hostile to the
other, the union having made public threats of industrial action and having
praised competitors in order to damage the company.