Airline roster arrangements and collective bargaining
Do airline rostering arrangements fall within the scope of statutory collective bargaining? This question was recently considered by the Court of Appeal in British Airline Pilots’ Association v Jet2.com Limited.
Many employers have entered into agreed methods of collective bargaining following voluntary union recognition. A recent case highlights the advantages of reaching clear agreements with unions to allow flexibility on not only how negotiations are conducted but also the scope of the matters to be negotiated.
Employers would plainly prefer not to face the unenviable situation of a third party dictating their negotiating arrangements. In order to do so agreement must be reached to avoid this situation. In addition as a result of recent case law, unions will now have a persuasive argument when negotiating the initial voluntary arrangements or renewing existing arrangements to broaden the matters which the employer should discuss with them.
In 2010 the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) was granted statutory union recognition by the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) and as a result was entitled to conduct collective bargaining on behalf of Jet2’s pilots in matters relating to pay, hours and holidays.
Jet2 and BALPA could not agree about the method of collective bargaining and therefore the CAC imposed a specified method of collective bargaining on the parties (the Specified Method). This included a prohibition on Jet2 varying the contractual terms affecting pay, hours or holidays unless it had first discussed the proposals with BALPA.
Jet2 sought to alter the terms of its rostering and crewing Policy (RCP) and as it was a non contractual policy Jet2 did not consider they needed to discuss proposed changes with BALPA.
BALPA were unsuccessful with their initial arguments in the High Court that as the RCP related to arrangements on pilots’ contractual hours any changes to those arrangements should have been subject to collective bargaining arrangements under the CAC’s Specified Method. The High Court approached the matter on the basis that elements of the RCP were not contractual and were not capable of being incorporated into pilots’ employment contracts.
BALPA appealed and the Court of Appeal found that the non-contractual elements of the RCP did fall within the scope of collective bargaining and Jet2 were required to discuss proposed changes with BALPA. Within both the wording of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULRCA) and the statutory recognition order made in 2010 there was nothing which restricted proposals to only those matters that, if agreed, were capable of creating individual contractual rights.
It was a key element of the judgment that the Court of Appeal did not consider it appropriate that trade union officials and managers had to determine what matters were potentially capable of incorporation into individual pilot contracts before determining what matters should fall within the scope of negotiations. Common sense was required to consider those matters that were related to pay, hours and holidays and which therefore should be subject to negotiations.
Jet2 are now required to negotiate any changes with BALPA in respect of the following:
> The frequency with which rosters are published and the format
> Minimum number of days off per month
> Standby and contact arrangements
> Night duties and rest breaks
> Holiday booking procedures
The judgment is a prompt to employers to revisit the terms of their arrangements and possibly re-negotiate their bargaining obligations.
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