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Trade Unions: Certification / Definition

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Thanks to Rad Kohanzad of Serjeants’ Inn Chambers for preparing this case summary

Is the General and Healthcare Workers Union ('GAHWU'), whose purpose includes representing employees at internal disciplinary hearings, a trade union?

No, said the EAT in Akinosun v The Certification Officer, upholding the finding of the Certification Officer as one which he was entitled to arrive at.

In deciding whether an organisation meets the definition of a trade union, set out in s.1 TULRCA 1992, Langstaff J set out three points of construction relevant to that definition.

Firstly, whether the organisation's "principal purposes include the regulation of relations between workers and employers or employers associations" is a question of fact for the Certification Officer.

Secondly, the definition looks at whether the principal purpose of the organisation is collective in nature, whatever other individual purposes it may be established to service. In this case, providing representation at internal disciplinary hearings would not, purely by reason of that alone, mean that the GAHWU was a trade union.

Thirdly, whether an organisation is a trade union is a question framed in the present tense, not one which looks to what will be at some future date.