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Union at War with Airline in Collective Bargaining Row

The bad old days in which company bosses were constantly at odds with trade unions have largely been consigned to history. However, in one case, the relationship between an airline and a union representing its pilots was so acrimonious that High Court intervention was required.

The airline had been required by the government’s Central Arbitration Committee (the CAC) to recognise the union for the purposes of collective bargaining. The CAC also laid down a specified method by which negotiations in respect of pilots’ ‘pay, hours and holidays’ were to be carried out annually.

The union launched High Court proceedings, arguing that the airline had failed to meet the obligations imposed by the CAC. The Court observed that it was clear that the airline wished to minimise the union’s involvement in its business and that the union was equally determined to maximise the extent to which the airline was required to negotiate with it.

Rejecting the union’s arguments, the Court found that, whilst the airline was required to bargain in respect of contractual terms affecting pay, hours and holidays, that did not encompass shift and rostering arrangements which did not relate to the core terms of employment. The airline was also entitled to communicate with its staff about proposed pay increases before negotiating such matters with the union.