Purpose of disputes
The starting assumption is that the parties to a negotiation need to reach an agreement by holding discussions with each other. If there are major differences of opinion, however, and all the arguments have been heard, a dispute may be raised as a last resort. The purpose of this industrial action is to put pressure on the other party. A dispute may only be raised if there is no obligation to maintain industrial peace. A strike cannot be held while there is a collective agreement in force, for instance.
When a dispute is possible
A trade union may use a dispute as a way of putting pressure on the other party (the employer) in one of three situations:
- A dispute during a collective bargaining process
The most common situation is for a dispute to occur during a collective bargaining process. During such a process, we are on standby so that we can organise and stage our own disputes, and also manage and respond to dispute action by other parties, such as lockouts.
- Issuing dispute notices to individual companies
If Unionen’s members in a given workplace want a collective agreement, the union may issue a dispute notice to an individual company. This may happen at any time and is not linked to the collective bargaining process.
- Sympathetic action with regard to your own and other trade unions’ disputes
We need to act if we receive requests for neutrality or sympathetic action from other trade unions when they are engaged in disputes. We can also issue a notice of sympathetic action with regard to our own disputes, which means extending disputes to other companies.
The industrial action that is possible during a dispute
Union disputes may involve workers refusing to work, or to work overtime. This means calling a strike or an overtime ban. Employers sometimes resort to lockouts and workplace closures.
A strike is the most common action a trade union can take in a dispute to ensure that members’ demands for better employment conditions are met. The right to strike is constitutionally protected.
Steps from issuing a notice to raising a dispute and calling a strike
You must warn, or issue a notice to, the other party before initiating a dispute.
A notice is a warning that a dispute will be raised if no agreement is reached. The employee organisation may resort to an overtime ban or strike action, whereas the employer may organise a lockout.
Dispute notices must be issued at least seven working days in advance, i.e. seven working days plus Saturday and Sunday and public holidays, before a dispute can start.
The party issuing the notice produces a notification document, which is a basic document explaining, amongst other things, why notice is being given and the implications, such as strike action.
The job and role of the club in the event of a dispute and strike action
Unionen’s elected representatives and members are responsible for staging disputes and the club for organising the local dispute action on the ground.
Unionen compensates you in the event of a strike
In the event of a strike or lockout, salaries are not paid by the employer, and Unionen compensates its members for their loss of income.