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UCL Hospitals Trust v UNISON

[1999] ICR 204

Case summary last updated at 17/02/2020 20:52 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case UCL Hospitals Trust v UNISON

P contracted TP to build a new hospital under PFI, and some of the staff currently employed by P (an NHS Trust) would be transferred to be employed by the new hospital. When P refused to guarantee that the transferred employees should get the same terms as employees of the trust for 30 years, D called a strike (which was supported by ballot, as law required). P requested an injunction preventing the union from inducing P’s employees from breaking their contracts, on the grounds that the strike was not concerned with a ‘trade dispute’ (as required for the strike to be lawful). CA granted the application, holding that the dispute over the terms and conditions of employees of a third party (an unidentified future employer), which was beyond the meaning of ‘trade dispute’ under s.244. 
 
Lord Wright MR: “there can be two strands to a policy. A union can have a policy of opposing a particular course of action root and branch which is seeking to achieve a political objective. At the same time it could have a more limited objective, namely to alleviate the adverse consequences which it anticipates could flow from the more general policy. That more limited objective can be the reason for taking strike action. That more limited policy can comply with the requirements of section 244”. However this case does not fall within the more limited policy. The union is seeking guarantees on terms of employment for workers who have never been employed by P (as well as workers to be transferred). Because of the length of the 30 year period, the vast majority of employees affected by such a guarantee would never have been employed by P, which is incompatible with s.244(1)(a) and (5). 

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