What is union recognition?

If enough members join together the workplace union can start to work more effectively to help everyone and not just individuals. Some people describe this process as organising, or unionising or building a union. It is a process that workers (not employers) have control over, remember that workers have a legal right to organise.

In the UK, a trade union is said to be recognised when an employer has agreed to negotiate with it on pay and working conditions on behalf of a particular group of workers. So to be unionised means having a recognition agreement in place. The subsequent negotiation process is known as collective bargaining, with the group of workers the union represents referred to as the bargaining unit

Employers are not obliged to bargain with their workers but they can voluntarily recognise a union if they want to. They are more likely to want to when they know that the union has lots of members and so is representative of the workforce.

How to get unionise /get recognition

To make a successful claim for recognition, you and your colleagues must demonstrate that there is strong support for the process. The easiest way to do this is by getting as many people as possible to join the union. There are some key thresholds – for statutory recognition your employer needs to employ 21 or more staff.

To start any recognition campaign the first step is to have more than 10% of members in a workplace. You have the best chance of success when membership reaches 50% or more.

Many recognition agreements are voluntary, but if your employer is reluctant to recognise a union voluntarily then it is possible to achieve recognition using a formal legal process known as statutory recognition.

Interested? Start talking to your colleagues and get some help from an organiser.