Cheall v Association of Professional Executive Clerical and Computer Staff

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
Judgment Date18 Jun 1982
Judgment citation (vLex)[1982] EWCA Civ J0618-1
Docket Number82/0431

[1982] EWCA Civ J0618-1






Royal Courts of Justice.


The Master of the Rolls

(Lord Denning)

Lord Justice Donaldson


Lord Justice Slade


1980 No. 2151C

Ernest Dennis Cheall
Appellant (Plaintiff)
The Association of Professional and Executive Clerical and Computer Staff (Apex)
Defendant (Respondent)

MR. GEORGE NEWMAN, Q.C. and MR. STEPHEN AULD (instructed by Messrs Boyle & Ormerod of Aylesbury, Bucks) appeared on behalf of the Appellant.

MR. FREDERICK REYNOLD, Q.C. and MISS C. BOOTH (instructed by John L. Williams, Esq.) appeared on behalf of the Respondent.


This case raises a point of the first importance. No less than the right of a man to join a trade union of his choice. It arises out of a struggle between two trade unions. They are rivals. Each trade union wants to maintain and increase its membership. It objects to the rival "poaching" its members. What is to be done?


The Bridlington Principles


It is a problem which has vexed the trade union movement for many years. As long ago as 1939 there was a Congress of Trade Unions at Bridlington. It was much concerned with membership questions. They agreed upon a code of conduct. It was designed to minimise conflict between trade unions. The code has ever since been called the Bridlington Principles. These principles are regarded as morally binding on the members of the TUC, but they are not a legally enforceable contract. The most important principle here is Principle 2. Shortly stated, it comes to this: If a man who is already a member of one trade union (which I will call the first trade union) applies to join another trade union (which I will call the second trade union), then the second trade union must not accept him at that stage. It should make an inquiry of the first trade union and ask if it objects to the transfer. If the first trade union does not object, all well and good. The man can join the second trade union. But, if the first trade union does object, the second trade union must consider the grounds of the objection. If the objection is well-founded, the second trade union must not accept the man. If the objection is not well-founded—at any rate if the second trade union considers it not to be well-founded and still desires to accept the man—then the two unions are in dispute. If the dispute cannot be mutually resolved, it is to be referred to the TUC adjudication. The decision of the TUC is final. The TUC decides whether the man should transfer to the second trade union or remain with the first.


Like principle applies when a man resigns from his first trade union and soon afterwards applies to join a second trade union. Again, the second trade union must not accept him without inquiry: and, if it is not mutually resolved, the dispute is to be referred to the TUC for adjudication.


The important thing to notice is that these Bridlington Principles apply only to the two trade unions. The man himself is not a party to them. They are not incorporated into his terms of membership. He has no voice in the decision of any dispute between the two trade unions. He is a pawn in the struggle between them. They fight for his body.


The two trade unions here


In our present case the first trade union is the Association of Clerical Technical and Supervisory Staffs (ACTSS), which is itself a subsidiary of one of the largest trade unions in the country—the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU). I will call it ACTSS (TGWU).


The second trade union is the Association of Professional and Executive Clerical and Computer Staff. I will call it APEX.


These two unions were in dispute over the application of the Bridlington Principles to a man called Ernest Cheall. He had been a member of ACTSS (TGWU), but left them and joined APEX. ACTSS (TGWU) complained to the TUC. The TUC decided in favour of ACTSS (TGWU) and against APEX: with the result that APEX terminated his membership with them. He was told to rejoin ACTSS (TGWU). He refused to do so. He now sues APEX claiming that the termination was unlawful.


Mr. Ernest Cheall


He leaves ACTSS (TGWU)


Mr. Cheall is now aged 61. He held his first union card at the age of 14. He is deeply imbued with the loyalties and traditions of the trade union movement. He is employed by Vauxhall Motors as a security officer. He was a member of ACTSS (TGWU) and was secretary of the local branch. In 1974 several members of the branch became dissatisfied with their local full-time official. So much so that on the 6th May, 1974 they submitted their resignations from ACTSS (TGWU). Mr. Cheall, the secretary, followed suit. He was meticulous in doing everything in good order. He finalised the books of the branch and sent them to the union's head office. He sent in written notice of his own resignation. All this operated on and from the 6th May, 1974.


He applies to join APEX


APEX had nothing to do with Mr. Cheall's resignation. He resigned from ACTSS (TGWU) solely because of his dissatisfaction with them. At various meetings at which he had been present, he had been impressed with the effectiveness of the secretary of APEX, so much so that on the 29th May, 1974 (three weeks after leaving ACTSS (TGWU)) he attended a recruiting meeting for APEX and signed an application form. He gave his name and address, and said he was a security officer with Vauxhall Motors. There was a question asking whether he had been a member of any other trade union. He left the answer blank, but that did not matter because APEX well knew that he had been a member of ACTSS (TGWU). There was a printed clause above his signature, saying:


"I agree to be bound by all the Rules of the Union lawfully applicable to me".


APEX duly accepted his application. So he became a member of APEX. He thought that he was perfectly entitled to join APEX because he had left ACTSS (TGWU) three weeks before, and was free to join another union of his choice. That was a view which he held throughout. It was his sincere belief over the succeeding years. Was he right or not? That is the root question in this case.


APEX turn a blind eye


According to the Bridlington Principles, however, APEX were not free to accept Mr. Cheall's application, and they knew it. They knew that he had recently left ACTSS (TGWU) and that they ought to have applied the Bridlington Principles. They deliberately turned a blind eye to them. The judge said:


"Its omission to make inquiry was calculated. It wanted to build up its membership at Vauxhall".


APEX accept him


So APEX accepted Mr. Cheall with open arms. They appointed him as their representative in dealings at Vauxhalls. This gave rise to much resentment by ACTSS (TGWU). Things dragged on for nearly two years until ACTSS (TGWU) made a formal complaint to the TUC.


The formal complaint of ACTSS (TGWU)


On the 2nd February, 1976 TGWU (ACTSS) made this formal complaint to Mr. Len Murray, the General Secretary of the TUC:


"We have to register our complaint that APEX has contravened T.U.C. disputes principles 2 and 3 by accepting into membership without inquiry the following five individuals…D. Cheal…


"These persons are longstanding members of the TGWU (ACTSS), and since this poaching was brought to the attention of APEX way back in 1974 there has been nothing but delay and procrastination on their part".


The Disputes Committee hear the complaint


Over a year later, on the 17th May, 1977, there was a hearing by the Disputes Committee of the TUC. The only parties to the proceedings were TGWU (ACTSS) and APEX. Mr. Cheall himself was present and made two interventions. These were to the effect that, as he had lawfully ceased to be a member of TGWU (ACTSS), he was free to join APEX. But his point was swept aside. He was not regarded as a party. The judge said:


"He was certainly not regarded as a party to the issue which the Disputes Committee were there to resolved, and for that reason I cannot think that anything he would have said on his own behalf would have carried any significant weight. The Disputes Committee were concerned with regulating the conduct of and the relations between unions in dispute, not with considering what was best for individual members".


The Disputes Committee determine the dispute


On the 30th May, 1977 the Disputes Committee made this award. They said:


"Having carefully considered the written and oral evidence of both unions, the Committee consider that APEX should have made enquiries of the TGWU, and by not doing so, APEX therefore acted in breach of Principle 2 of the T.U.C. Disputes Principles and Procedures. The Disputes Committee AWARD that APEX should exclude the eleven named individuals and advise them to rejoin the TGWU".


Mr. Cheall's protest to the TUC


On the 16th October, 1977 Mr. Cheall wrote a letter to Mr. Murray protesting against the award of the Disputes Committee. He said:


"…I want to point out that the result is unjust, undemocratic and unacceptable…


"I appreciate that there is no appeal procedure laid down on the findings of the Disputes Committee, for a union or members concerned. This in itself is not democratic. This proves what I said at the meeting, that Bridlington is totally out of date, and is inadequate to meet present day requirements".


His application to the industrial tribunal


Meanwhile, Mr. Cheall was involved in a dispute with his employers, Vauxhall Motors, about shift pay. It was owing to a personal problem as his...

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