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Does taking part in industrial action equate to participation in trade union activities? Yes, held the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Ryanair DAC v Morais & Others.

Section 146 of the Trade Union & Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 provides protection against detriment for employees on grounds related to their participation in trade union activities.

The claimants in this case were pilots employed by Ryanair and they were also members of the British Airline Pilots’ Association. In September 2019, they participated in strike action. Prior to that action, the employer threatened to withdraw their concessionary travel benefits for 12 months if they did strike, and it followed through on that promise.

As a result of the withdrawal of their travel benefits, the claimants presented an Employment Tribunal claim. They asserted they had been subjected to a detriment for taking part in trade union activities.

This is welcome clarification of the law; it provides peace of mind for union members

The Employment Tribunal decided that in taking strike action, they had been taking part in the activities of a trade union in accordance with section 46 of the 1992 Act and Regulation 3 of the Employment Relations Act 1999 (Blacklists) Regulations 2010. Consequently, the Tribunal found that industrial action was both synonymous and intrinsic to trade union activities.

It had been thought that the statutory protection against detriment in relation to trade union activities did not extend to participation in industrial action – and the employer submitted an appeal on this basis. However, the Employment Appeal Tribunal agreed with the Tribunal that section 146 of the 1992 Act does provide protection against detriment for workers who take part in industrial action, whether protected or not.

This is welcome clarification of the law; it provides peace of mind for union members to know that they are legally protected against detriment should they choose to participate in strike action.

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