Labour Research (February 2012)

Law Queries


Q. We suspected a member of spreading race hate at our branch. We confronted him, in particular about some leaflets distributed at a recent meeting. He admitted that he had handed them out and that he is a member of the right-wing British National Party (BNP). We told him that we reject racism and he can’t be a member of the union and the BNP. He refused to resign — what can we do?

A. ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, had a similar problem a few years ago. As the law stood at the time, it was unclear whether unions had the power to expel individuals for being members of racist organisations. As a result of a challenge, which went all the way to the European Court of Human Rights (EHCR) in ASLEF v UK — application 11002/05, the law is now clear: unions can expel members on the sole basis that they are members of racist organisations such as the BNP.

The ECHR said that to prevent a union from expelling such members would be a violation of the union’s own rights. Where a person’s values and ideals fundamentally clash with a union’s in this way, the individual may have no recourse following their expulsion.

Subsequent to this case, the Trade Union and Labour Relations Consolidation Act 1992 (TULRCA) was amended with section 174 containing the relevant express provision.

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