CAN A MEMBER BE EXPELLED FROM A TRADE UNION?

The right of workers to form or join a trade union is catered for by the fundamental right to freedom of association.

CHAMAN LAW FIRM

6/7/2022 0 min read

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CAN A MEMBER BE EXPELLED FROM A TRADE UNION?

The right of workers to form or join a trade union is catered for by the fundamental right to freedom of association. Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) guarantees the right to peaceful assembly and association. The ILO Convention C87 of 1948 stipulates on freedom of association and protection of the right to organise convention and provides that employees and employers must have the right to establish and join organisations of their own choice, without authorisation.

However, a disciplinary measure that may be sanctioned on erring member of a trade union is expulsion from membership of such a union. This may be the highest form of disciplinary measure or sanction. Such expulsion may be lawful or wrongful. If it is lawful, it will be allowed to take its full course. On the other hand, if it is wrongful, the court may intervene to provide the required remedy for such a wrongful expulsion.

WRONGFUL EXPULSION MAY BE CONSTITUTED BY ANY OF THE FOLLOWING IN NIGERIA:

1. Non-adherence to the rules of natural justice amounts to wrongful expulsion. The rules of natural justice are based on the audi alteram partem, that is, hear the other side and nemo judex in causa sua which means no one should be a judge in his own cause. These rules are referred to as fair hearing. Once disciplinary measures are meted out to a member of the union without being heard or given a chance to defend himself, such disciplinary measure may be deemed wrongful by the court.

(b) Power to discipline being exercised by a person or body different from that entitled to exercise. The person or body who exercises the power to expel must be the person authorized by the rules book in that regard. In Bonsor v Musicians Union, the power to expel was vested in the branch committee of the union and the purported expulsion was carried out by the secretary of the union. It was held that the expulsion was wrongful.

(c) The rule for expulsion being against public policy. The court may also void a rule under which a member was expelled as being against public policy.

When a member of trade union is wrongfully expelled, he or she may pursue any or all of the remedies of declaration, injunction and damages in so far as he is not prevented by section 23 of the Trade Unions Act. Notably, in the case of Bonsor v Musicians Union, the court of first instance, held that the expulsion of Bonsor was wrongful as it was done by the branch secretary who was not empowered by the union rules to act in that manner. Consequently, the expulsion was declared null and void and an injunction was granted restraining the union from acting upon it. On further appeal to the House of Lords, it was further held that in addition, Mr. Bonsor was entitled to damages for wrongful expulsion. In essence, where there is a wrong, there is a remedy.

NB: This article is not a legal advice, and under no circumstance should you take it as such. All information provided are for general purpose only. For information, please contact chamanlawfirm@gmail.com

WRITTEN BY CHAMAN LAW FIRM TEAM

EMAIL: chamanlawfirm@gmail.com

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