‘Sweetheart agreements’ cannot defeat trade union recognition


Boots Management Services Ltd had such an agreement with the Boots Pharmacists Association (BPA), a listed trade union, and tried to use its recognition of the BPA to block an application to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) by the Pharmacists’ Defence Association Union (PDAU) for statutory recognition in respect of a group of pharmacists at Boots. Boots argued that, as it already recognised a listed trade union, the CAC should not accept the PDAU application.

The CAC observed that, although there was already an agreement in force, it did not cover collective bargaining in relation to terms and conditions of employment, pay, working hours or holidays. It therefore decided to allow the PDAU’s application for recognition on the basis that blocking it would be contrary to Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to freedom of assembly and association).

This case suggests that seeking to block an application for statutory recognition by a trade union by entering into a ‘sweetheart agreement’ with another trade union or staff association which excludes bargaining on pay, hours and holidays will not succeed.

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