In the last half-hour, speaking at the TUC conference, CRE Chairman Trevor Phillips has promised to back any trade union which expels any member of the British National Party (BNP).
Whilst this may be a morally commendable stance, one must query whether the CRE is opening itself for significant liability. As from 2nd December 2003, it will be unlawful for a trade union to expel members based on their religion, religious belief or similar philosophical belief. It is strongly arguable that membership of the BNP demonstrates a philosophical belief that persons of a particular race - or religion - should have different rights to white anglo-saxon protestants. For a trade union to expel members because of this belief may contravene regulation 15 of the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.
In turn, by inducing unions to expel members of the BNP, the Commission for Racial Equality may be:
- (a) aiding the union's unlawful act - which, in turn, is actionable under regulation 23; and,
- (b) insofar as the unions have contractual membership rules by which they undertakes not to expel members on grounds of political or other beliefs (as many do), liable for inducing a breach of contract.
Having said that, it could just as strongly be argued that membership of the BNP is not a "similar philosophical belief" - which would provide all the excuse a tribunal needs for rejecting a BNP member's claim in these circumstances.
So good on Trevor Phillips.