Key points

  • The Central Arbitration Committee (or CAC) is the senior standing arbitration tribunal in Great Britain. A successor to both the Industrial Court (set up in 1919) and the Industrial Arbitration Board (1971), the CAC's constitution and independent status are presently described in sections 259 to 265 of the Trade Union & Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.

  • The CAC comprises a Chairman and one or more deputy chairmen appointed by the Secretary of State (after consultation with ACAS and other persons) and several members experienced in industrial relations also appointed by the Secretary of State. Those other members (apart from the Chairman) must include some persons whose experience is as representatives of employers and some whose experience is as representatives of workers. Members will normally hold office for a maximum of five years. Cases brought before the CAC are normally heard by the Chairman (or one of the deputy chairmen) and two members (one from each side of industry) (ibid. sections 259 and 260, as amended by section 22 of the Employment Relations Act 1999).

Trade disputes

  • Any matter constituting a trade dispute may be referred to the CAC for arbitration, so long as both parties to the dispute agree. However, all requests for voluntary arbitration must first be channelled through ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation & Arbitration Service). Voluntary arbitration hearings are held in private unless the parties wish otherwise. The CAC's decision is not normally announced at the hearing (which is usually completed in a day) but is relayed in writing to the parties at a later date. See Trade disputes and arbitration elsewhere in this handbook.


    Note

    Although the parties to a trade dispute are under no legal obligation to honour an award made by the CAC, such awards are invariably accepted.

  • Section 183 of the 1992 Act allows that a trade union may complain to the CAC either that an employer has failed to disclose to representatives of the union information that he is required by section 181 to disclose for the purposes of collective bargaining or that he has failed to confirm such information in writing in accordance with that section. The complaint must be in writing and in such form as the CAC may require. If an employer fails to comply with the CAC's decision in such cases, the CAC will make an award on the claim that has effect as part of the contracts of employment of the employees concerned. For further particulars, please turn to the section titled Disclosure of information.

Disclosure of information for the purposes of collective bargaining

  • A recognised independent trade union may complain to the CAC that an employer has failed to comply with his (or her) duty under section 181 of that Act to disclose information without which the union would be to a material extent impeded in carrying on collective bargaining with that employer (ibid. section 183). For further details, please turn to the section titled Disclosure of information elsewhere in this handbook.

Recognition agreements and collective bargaining

Derecognition

  • Schedule A1 to the 1992 Act also lays down procedures for derecognition and for the intervention of the CAC if the original bargaining unit ceases to exist or is no longer an appropriate bargaining unit.

European Works Councils

  • Under the Transnational Information & Consultation of Employees Regulations 2000, which came into force on 15 December 1999, the central management of a multi-national company may apply to the CAC for a declaration as to the validity of a request by 100 or more of the company's employees (or by representatives of those employees) for the initiation of negotiations for the establishment of a European Works Council (EWC) (or an information and consultation procedure). Disputes about other specified matters (mainly procedural) arising prior to the establishment of an EWC may also be referred to the CAC. A failure to comply with a CAC declaration is punishable as if it were a contempt of court. For further particulars, please turn to the section titled European Works Councils elsewhere in this handbook.

CAC proceedings

Trade disputes

  • Before a CAC hearing takes place, the parties concerned will be asked to exchange evidence in the form of written statements. In disclosure of information cases (that are not routed through ACAS), the Chairman (or one of the deputy chairmen) will normally arrange an informal, joint meeting of the parties to clarify the issues and to give the parties an opportunity to resolve their difficulties (either themselves or with the help of ACAS) before a full hearing is arranged.

Recognition disputes

  • For the purpose of discharging its functions under Schedule A1 of the Trade Union & Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 ('Collective Bargaining: Recognition'), the chairman of the CAC will establish a three-person panel consisting of the chairman himself or herself (or a deputy chairman), a member of the Committee whose experience is as a representative of employers, and a member of the Committee whose experience is as a representative of workers. The panel may, at the discretion of its chairman, sit in private. If there is no unanimous decision, the question before the panel will be decided according to the majority opinion. If the majority of the panel do not have the same opinion, it will be up to the panel's chairman to decide the question (acting with the full powers of an umpire or, in Scotland, an oversman) (ibid. section 263A).

Guidance notes

  • Guidance on the procedure at CAC hearings and on the preparation of written statements is given in a booklet titled Notes for Guidance, available from the following address:


    The Secretary

    Central Arbitration Committee

    Brandon House

    180 Borough High Street

    London

    SE1 1LW
    Telephone: 020 7210 3737/3738

    The booklet referred to above will undoubtedly be revised in light of the expansion of the CAC's functions under the Employment Relations Act 1999.

    Further information about the CAC's activities is to be found in the Committee's Annual Reports, copies of which will also be supplied on request.

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