Workers have a right not to have offers made to them which have the sole or main purpose of inducing them not to participate in trade union activities. An outsourcing company found that out to its cost after making a trade union activist a tempting offer of a transfer to a new workplace at a higher rate of pay.
The man worked at government-owned premises where the company was contracted to provide cleaning services. He had an active and high-profile role in an independent trade union and had in the past received media attention due to his involvement in promoting strike action. The company vehemently opposed the union’s attempts to achieve recognition as an authorised representative of employees working on the site.
With an employee ballot on the recognition issue looming, the company offered to transfer the man to a new site where he would be better paid. He launched Employment Tribunal (ET) proceedings on the basis that the offer was made for the purpose of inducing him not to take part in trade union activities, contrary to Section 145A(1)(b) of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.
The company asserted that the sole purpose of the offer was to swiftly find suitable cleaners to work at the new site. It contended that the man was chosen because he had appropriate security clearance and had previously expressed a desire to move to a different location where he would be better remunerated.
In upholding his complaint, however, the ET found on the evidence that the sole or main purpose of the offer was to induce him not to vote in the finely balanced recognition ballot, not to attend pre-ballot meetings and to refrain from seeking to persuade colleagues to vote in favour of recognition.
The ET noted that the timing of the offer coincided very precisely with critical events in the recognition process. A similar offer had been made to another worker who was also vocal in his support for the union. The offer had not been advertised internally as would normally have been the case. The ET gave directions for a further hearing at which remedy issues would be determined.