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Annex to chapter 8

Issue date

Appendix 4 - relations between unions

Transport and General Workers - Union and United Road Transport Union:

Ford Truck Fleet Drivers, Dagenham

1 A TUC Disputes Committee composed of Mr A Dubbins (General Council) Chair, Mr J Knapp (General Council) and Mr P Gates (General Secretary, National Union of Knitwear, Footwear and Apparel Trades) with Mr B Barber as Secretary, met in Congress House on 30 April, 21 May and 15 July 1997 to consider certain differences which had arisen between the TGWU and URTU concerning Ford Truck Fleet drivers at the Dagenham plant of Ford UK. The TGWU alleged that the URTU had >knowingly and actively= recruited members of the TGWU among Ford Truck Fleet drivers and had therefore acted in contravention of TUC Disputes Principle 2. The TGWU also contended that the URTU, by seeking check-off facilities for the Truck Fleet drivers, without the agreement of the TGWU and the other Ford signatory unions, had acted contrary to TUC Disputes Principle 3. Further, that the URTU had acted in breach of TUC Disputes Principle 4 by threatening industrial action in pursuit of check-off facilities. The URTU rejected that it had >knowingly and actively= sought to recruit Truck Fleet drivers and thereby acted in contravention of Disputes Principle 2. The URTU also rejected the allegation that it had acted in contravention of Principle 3 and Principle 4 as there had been no contact whatsoever between the URTU and the Ford management about check-off facilities and thereby no threat of industrial action. The TGWU was represented by Mr J Adams, Mr B Purkiss, Mr S Hart and Mr S Turner. The URTU was represented by Mr D Higginbottom, Mr N Rogers, Mr R Abrahams, Mr M Billingham, Mr J Cheshire, Mr M Fossett, Mr B Sandford and Mr M Smith. Mr B Ward (TUC Union Relations Officer) was also present.

2 During the consideration by the Disputes Committee of the differences between the TGWU and URTU, extensive efforts were made to explore the possibility of establishing a conciliated settlement, which would be mutually acceptable to both unions. To this end, the Committee held very lengthy, separate discussions with the representatives of the TGWU and of the URTU. However, it was not possible to reach an agreed settlement and the Disputes Committee must therefore adjudicate on the differences between the TGWU and URTU concerning Ford Truck Fleet drivers at the Dagenham plant of Ford UK.

3 The Disputes Committee has very carefully considered all the written and oral evidence submitted to it by both the TGWU and URTU. The Committee has also been mindful of the terms of Disputes Regulation >R=.

4 The issues before the Disputes Committee could be said to have their origins in disagreements which arose between the Truck Fleet drivers and the TGWU, of which they were members. These disagreements had their genesis in attempts made by Ford employees, outside the Truck Fleet, to transfer into the Truck Fleet. Complaints emerged about the recruitment procedure into the Truck Fleet, particularly from seven ethnic minority members of the TGWU, who believed that they had been racially discriminated against. Efforts to resolve the issue through the companyÕs internal procedures were unsuccessful and the seven individuals concerned decided, with the support of the TGWU, to submit Industrial Tribunal (IT) applications. At a reconvened hearing of the IT in January 1997, an >agreed solution= was reached between the seven complainants, the company and the TGWU - the TGWU maintained that representatives of the Truck Fleet Drivers were also involved in reaching the >agreed solution=. However, the representatives maintained that they were not involved in the >agreed solution= that emerged at the reconvened IT hearing. The Committee deal with a particular aspect of the >agreed solution= in paragraphs 14 and 15 below.

5 The Truck Fleet drivers had maintained all along that there was no racial discrimination whatsoever in the recruitment procedures of the Truck Fleet. They also maintained that certain officials of the TGWU had never been concerned to properly hear the views of the drivers; that the union should have done so and should have represented the Truck Fleet drivers within the company internal procedures and at the IT hearings. The Truck Fleet drivers contended that the union could have separately represented the views of both the seven complainants and themselves. The differences between the union and the Truck Fleet culminated in the drivers questioning their continued membership of the TGWU. This resulted in the drivers eventually becoming members of the URTU. The TGWU argued that: the URTU had >knowingly and actively= recruited the Truck Fleet drivers and had thereby acted in breach of Disputes Principle 2; the URTU had breached Principle 3 by seeking check-off facilities from the company; and the URTU had breached Principle 4 by threatening industrial action in respect of check-off facilities. The URTU rejected: that it had >knowingly and actively= sought to recruit Truck Fleet drivers and thereby breached Principle 2; that it had acted in contravention of Principle 3 and Principle 4, as there had been no contact between the company and the URTU about check-off facilities.

6 In making its Award, the Committee in respect of the Disputes Principle 2 issues has in mind, among others, the following factors:

(a) the contact between the Truck Fleet drivers and the URTU came about through an approach by a representative of the drivers contacting the URTU. This contact was made after differences between the Truck Fleet drivers and the TGWU had led the drivers to question their continued membership of the TGWU;

(b) the initial contact made by the Truck Fleet drivers representatives, referred to in (a) above, was to the URTU Mobile Office manager on 6 November 1996. An explanation of the situation that had arisen between the drivers and the TGWU was given and the URTU Office Manager invited to attend a meeting of members of the Branch Committee of the Truck Fleet drivers. This invitation was accepted and the meeting took place on 11 November, when the URTU Office Manager, the Committee was informed, advised that every effort should be made to resolve the differences between the individuals concerned and their existing union. On 15 November the full Branch Committee of the Truck Fleet drivers visited the URTU Mobile Office whilst it was parked near Dunstable. The URTU Office Manager was informed that the points he had made on 11 November had been seriously considered and agreement reached on a course of action. This was that the drivers would withdraw from membership of the TGWU, even though they might not be accepted into any other union. Nevertheless, they still wished to make an application to the URTU. The URTU Office Manager had suggested that before any further steps were taken, a meeting of the Branch should be held so that this position could be fully explained and debated. Such a meeting was held on 25 November. The URTU Office Manager attended this meeting when he became convinced that the views expressed to him on 15 November accurately reflected the opinions of the Branch, as a whole of the drivers intended to withdraw from the TGWU. At a mass meeting of all the drivers on 1 December it was decided that the drivers would resign en-masse from the TGWU and that the Regional Secretary be so informed. It was also decided that applications would be made for membership of the URTU. The URTU Office Manager did not attend the mass meeting;

(c) representatives of the drivers had also contacted the AEEU about the question of joining that union. The AEEU official concerned had made it clear that his union would be most unhappy about such an approach and had informed the TGWU of what had taken place. No further contact was made with the AEEU by representatives of the Truck Fleet drivers.

7 The Disputes Committee is satisfied that the URTU did not initiate contact with the Ford Truck Fleet drivers. The Committee is also satisfied that such contact as did take place was made after differences between the Truck Fleet drivers and the TGWU had led the drivers to question their continued membership of the TGWU. However, the Committee does not consider that that ends the question of whether the URTU breached TUC Disputes Principle 2 in accepting the some 280 named Ford Truck Fleet drivers who were members of the TGWU, into membership of the URTU. The terms of Principle 2 state, inter alia:

AAll affiliates of the TUC, notwithstanding the provisions of the Act, accept as a binding commitment to their continued affiliation to the TUC that they will not knowingly and actively seek to take into membership the present or Arecent@ members of another union by making recruitment approaches, either directly or indirectly, without the agreement of that organisation.@ (The CommitteeÕs underlining).

8 Given the above terms, as well as their spirit and intent, it is the view of the Committee that the URTU should not have continued its contact with the Truck Fleet representatives following the initial contact by the drivers of 6 November 1996. Whatever the response of the URTU Mobile Office Manager to the approach he received, the object of the contact was to explore membership of the URTU as an alternative to remaining within the TGWU.

9 The URTU Mobile Office Manager had had, following the initial 6 November contact, further meetings with the Truck Fleet drivers on 11, 15 and 25 November 1996. The URTU made a point of stressing to the Committee that their Office Manager did not attend a mass meeting of 1 December when a decision was taken by the drivers to resign en-masse from the TGWU. The Committee do not accept that the non-attendance of the URTU at the 1 December mass meeting supports the URTU argument that it was not Aknowingly and actively@ involved in the recruitment of the Truck Fleet drivers. The Committee is of the view, for example, that it was open to the URTU to have responded to the initial approach it received in the same way as had the AEEU (see paragraph 6 (c) above). However the URTU chose to continue its contact and by doing so, if not ÔdirectlyÕ then certainly Aindirectly@ gave encouragement to the representatives of the Truck Fleet drivers that the URTU might be receptive to their membership approaches. The Disputes Committee is satisfied that the URTU in so acting, breached the terms of TUC Disputes Principle 2. The Committee so AWARD. The Disputes Committee is also satisfied that as a consequence of the URTU so acting, the TGWU has suffered a material harm. The Committee deal below with the circumstances under which the URTU shall pay a compensatory financial settlement to the TGWU for its material loss (see paragraph 12 below). The Committee wish to make it clear however, that it wholly accepts that the URTU, in the action it took in relation to the Truck Fleet drivers, was not seeking to condone or support alleged racist recruitment policies.

10 The Committee wish to express their concern at the way that the URTU stuck to the letter of Principle 2 in not writing to the TGWU to inform it of the approaches it had received from the Truck Fleet drivers until 5 February 1997, when it had actually received completed application forms on behalf of the drivers. This is not in accord with the Aspirit and intent of Principle 2". The Committee would again draw a comparison with the AEEU, when it immediately informed the TGWU of the contact it had received from representatives of the Truck Fleet drivers (see paragraph 6 (c) above).

11 Turning now to the allegation that the URTU has acted in breach of Disputes Principle 3, by claiming recognition for the Truck Fleet drivers now in its membership, the Committee accepts that the union has made no such claim and that therefore it has not contravened the terms of Principle 3. However, no such claim shall be made in the future by the URTU unless and until all the AFord Blue Book@ signatory unions are in agreement that the URTU may take such a step. The Disputes Committee so AWARD.

12 As the Truck Fleet drivers are currently in membership of the URTU, a non-Ford Blue Book signatory union, (see paragraph 11 above) their views and aspirations are not taken account of and they have no voice in the Ford collective bargaining machinery. This is not in the interests of the drivers. The Committee is of the view that the drivers should consider very seriously indeed reviewing their position in relation to their former union, the TGWU, which is, of course, a Ford signatory union. Indeed, it is the strong view of the Committee that it is in the best interests of the drivers that they should voluntarily return into membership of the TGWU. If the drivers so return to the TGWU then a compensatory financial settlement to be paid by the URTU to the TGWU, (see paragraph 9 above) shall not apply. However, if the drivers do not return to the TGWU, the TGWU shall be entitled to require from the URTU a compensatory financial settlement of ,36,000 in respect of the breach of Disputes Principle 2, (as decided by the Committee in paragraph 9 above). The Disputes Committee AWARD accordingly. The Committee do understand that it will be no easy matter for there to be a reconciliation between the Truck Fleet drivers and the TGWU. However, the Committee does not consider that such a step is wholly impossible. In this regard, it is sometimes helpful to have the assistance of a third party in a Ahealing process@. The Committee suggest that the TUC could be approached in this regard.

13 The Committee accept that the URTU, having not sought recognition as a Ford signatory union, has not threatened industrial action in pursuit of such an objective. The Committee also accepts that the manual collection of contributions of Truck Fleet drivers on a regular basis, on a Monday morning, does not constitute industrial action within the terms of the TUC Disputes Principles. With all the above points in mind, the Committee has decided that it has not been established that the URTU has acted in breach of Disputes Principle 4. The Committee wish to emphasise that, in the future, in accord with the requirements of Principle 4 neither the URTU at national level, nor its Truck Fleet driver members at local level, shall take any official, or unauthorised stoppage of work, or action short of a strike in connection with recognition or organising rights within the Ford Dagenham Plant.

14 In finality, the Committee wish to comment upon the difficulty that has arisen over the implementation of the settlement that was reached between the TGWU and Ford management covering the process to be used for the internal selection and recruitment of HGV drivers for the Dagenham Truck Fleet. This settlement was reached at the reconvened Industrial Tribunal hearing in January 1997. However, the Truck Fleet representatives contended that they were not consulted during the establishment of the settlement and have refused therefore to operate its terms. The TGWU said it was not correct that the Truck Fleet driversÕ representatives were not involved in the establishment of the settlement. The Committee does not consider that it is necessary for it to decide between the Truck Fleet driver representatives and the TGWU on this specific point of difference between them. In any case, the Committee would have needed further and better particulars if it was to so decide. However, it is the view of the Committee that the terms of the settlement are such that the Committee commend them to the Truck Fleet drivers for acceptance and implementation. This is particularly the case in respect of the terms covering the Adriving assessment@.

15 During the hearing the representatives of the Truck Fleet drivers assured the Committee that their opposition to changes in the Adriving assessment@ had no basis in racism whatever. The new procedures for driving assessments require that they be conducted simultaneously by one assessor from the Dagenham Truck Fleet and one from the Road Transport Industry Training Board (RTITB). It is the refusal of the drivers to accept the second independent assessor from the RTITB that, in the CommitteeÕs view, will cause continuing questions being raised about the basis of the opposition of the drivers. It is surely in the interests of the drivers themselves that the question of possible racial discrimination within the Adriving assessment@ procedures is laid to rest without further delay. This would be achieved by the acceptance of the second, independent assessor. The Committee does not accept that with three people in the driving cab A the Applicant, The Truck Fleet assessor and the RTITB assessor A is likely to be unfair on the applicant. Given the recent unfortunate history surrounding the selection and recruitment of HGV drivers, the Committee consider the opposite to be the case. In the light of the assurance given to the Committee that opposition to changes in the Adriving assessment@ had no basis in racism whatsoever, the Committee urge the Truck Fleet drivers to co-operate with the new driving assessment procedures, which the Committee understand will be applied to applicants for HGV driver positions, in the early autumn. The Committee would remind the Dagenham drivers that there is no difficulty at other Ford UK locations with independent driving assessment procedures.

16 The Committee wish to make it clear that this Award applies only to Ford Truck Fleet drivers, Dagenham.