BSkyB to fight union recognition

Sky has warned it will resist BECTU's legal effort to win bargaining rights.

The satellite broadcaster is planning to challenge the union's application for full recognition at its call centres, lodged after a two-year campaign by BECTU.

In a submission it plans to present to the Central Arbitration Council (CAC), the government body which awards bargaining rights to unions, BSkyB will argue that the call centres are just part of a single workforce which spans all 8,000 employees across the UK.

[BSkyB subsequently agreed with BECTU that sales staff in Livingston would be treated as a single bargaining unit for the purposes of a recognition ballot. See Ballot rules agreed with BSkyB]

Under new labour laws, BECTU has called for call centre staff to be balloted over union recognition on the ground that at least 10% of them (the legal threshold for an automatic ballot) are union members. The union's claim is backed by a petition of staff in which more than 50% called for BECTU to represent them.

Sky's blocking move is intended to prevent any ballot on union recognition until the union has at least 10% of all 8,000 staff in membership.

BECTU will argue that the call centres in Dunfermline and Livingston are separately managed from the broadcasting production and operations centre in Osterley, West London, and should therefore be treated as a separate bargaining unit for the purpose of union recognition.

Officials at the CAC are expected to convene a formal hearing after reviewing submissions from BECTU and BSkyB.

If the union wins the right to conduct a ballot of call centre staff it will need a 50% vote in favour to win recognition, with the additional hurdle of least 40% of the entire workforce voting yes.

The legal recognition process is laid out in the Employment Relations Act, introduced by the Labour government.

29 October 2002
Amended 15 December 2002