Discipline by trade unions

The following Employment practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Discipline by trade unions
  • Common law right
  • Statutory right
  • Enforcement of statutory right

Discipline by trade unions

A union member has a statutory right not to be unjustifiably disciplined by his union. This is in addition to the common law right arising from his membership of a union and from the union’s rules.

Common law right

A member of a trade union may not be disciplined by the union other than in accordance with the union’s rules. It also appears that the union must not act capriciously or arbitrarily, and may also be required to comply with the rules of natural justice before disciplining a member.

Although a union member also has statutory rights relating to discipline by the union, the common law right may be of practical use in some cases in that it may be enforced by a Court by a declaration and/or an injunction to prevent disciplinary action taking place. These remedies not available to enforce the statutory right.

Even where a union’s rule book does not contain any express power to discipline members, a power to discipline may be implied in some circumstances.

Sometimes a union’s rules seek to provide that a member has no remedy, where he feels that he has been disciplined unjustly, other than to use a determination or conciliation procedure set out in the rules. Such rules which seek to exclude the jurisdiction of the Courts entirely are of no effect.

However union rules may, up

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