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(1) Godrich (2) Serwotka v (1) PCS (2) Reamsbottom


High Court

The second defendant's term of office as general secretary of the first defendant trade union was governed by his contract of employment entered into with a predecessor trade union prior to amalgamation. The appointment was for a five-year term and was not capable of extension to his normal retirement age.Claimants' ('G' and 'S') application seeking declaratory relief to give effect to their contentions that S had been duly elected as general secretary of the first defendant trade union ('PCS') and was entitled to take up office on 1 June 2002. The second defendant ('R') had been elected as general secretary of a trade union ('CPSA'). R's employment contract dated 1 June 1997 specified that his appointment was for a term of five years. In March 1998, CPSA and another union ('PTC') were amalgamated under Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 to become PCS. The rules of PCS provided for the general secretaries of PTC and CPSA to be appointed as joint general secretaries of PCS and further that if one ceased to serve, the other would become sole general secretary. Provision was also made for the post to be filled by election. R became sole general secretary from 1 February 2001, the date of the other general secretary's retirement. In June 2000, R brought proceedings against PCS claiming that his term of office ran until 4 April 2004, his normal retirement age. However, by a compromise agreement dated October 2000, R agreed to vacate office on or before 31 May 2002. The second claimant ('S') was elected as general secretary in December 2000, to take up the post at the end of R's term. In April 2002, the first claimant ('G') was elected as president of PCS with effect from 18 May 2002. Subsequently, R convened a meeting of the National Executive Committee ('NEC') recommending that it endorse a number of resolutions including the following: (i) that the compromise agreement was unlawful and void; (ii) that R should remain in office until April 2004, his normal retirement age; and (iii) that the election of S in October 2000 was unlawful and void. S argued that the meeting had not been duly convened. The principal issue before the court was which of S and R was now general secretary of PCS and the length of the term of office. That question turned on the following: (a) the duration of R's office as general secretary of PCS; (b) the effect of the amendment of PCS's rules; and (c) the validity and effect of the compromise agreement, S's election and the NEC meeting.

HELD: (1) The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981 SI 1981/1794 should be, if possible, applied to amalgamations of trade unions. Therefore, R's employment contract was transferred to PCS on 10 March 1998. (2) The contract of employment between CPSA and R dated 1 June 1997 provided for a five-year term. That term would expire on 31 May 2002 before R's retirement in April 2004. The rules of CPSA did not provide for R's term as general secretary to be extended to his retirement age. Therefore, s.58 of the Act could not apply at any time before the amalgamation was effected in March 1998. (3) On the balance of probabilities, there was no evidence of an agreement between CPSA and PTC regarding the terms of office of the general secretaries before the amalgamation became effective in March 1998. In the absence of evidence showing that an extended term of office until retirement was agreed, R's appointment as general secretary expired at the end of the five years provided for in his employment contract. (4) The validity of the amendment to PCS's rules was not in doubt. However, as R was not contractually entitled to remain until his normal retirement date, the amendment to the rules had no bearing. (5) The compromise agreement was valid and binding. Therefore, it was not open to R to argue that his term of office should extend to his normal retirement date because he had confirmed in the agreement that he would vacate office by 31 May 2002. (6) The rules of PCS permitted an election in anticipation of a future vacancy arising. Therefore, NEC's exercise of its delegated powers to arrange an election in December 2000 for the post of general secretary that would arise on 1 June 2002, was valid and effective. (7) The NEC meeting was not validly convened and the resolutions passed were of no effect. Insufficient notice had been given to G and she had not been adequately consulted as required by NEC rules. Even if the meeting had been validly convened, the resolutions would have been void as they were outside the powers of the NEC. NEC was not a court of law and had no power to declare void the compromise agreement which had been validly entered into by PSC.
Applications allowed. Declarations accordingly.

[2002] EWHC 1642

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