The Industrial Tribunal in Malta Union of Bank Employees vs Bank of Valletta plc dismissed the GWU’s application to intervene in judicial proceedings relating to a trade dispute between MUBE and BOV.

The Malta Union of Bank Employees (‘MUBE’) was refused sole recognition as trade union for employees at Bank of Valleta plc (‘BOV’) by the latter. MUBE argued that this constituted a breach of the collective agreement currently in force. BOV argued that the collective agreement expressly stated that the trade union which was to be granted sole trade union recognition needed to have at least 50% + 1 of the employees at BOV.

BOV had granted sole recognition to a third party trade union, the General Workers’ Union (‘GWU’). BOV argued that MUBE did not produce evidence that it had 50% + 1 of the employees at BOV as its members, while GWU had reached this threshold. The MUBE filed judicial proceedings before the Industrial Tribunal on this point demanding a ruling by the Industrial Tribunal on the interpretation of the collective agreement.

GWU filed an application to intervene half-way through the judicial proceedings before the Industrial Tribunal. The Industrial Tribunal stated that GWU should not be a party to the judicial proceedings. The dispute between MUBE and BOV revolved around the interpretation of the collective agreement and that the Industrial Tribunal’s competence was limited to such a ruling. This, it said, did not affect any other proceedings before the Industrial Tribunal (and in which GWU is a party to) in relation to union recognition. Therefore the Tribunal refused the GWU’s application.

The rule at law is that the Industrial Tribunal is free to regulate its own procedure, and thus, in theory, it is permitted not to apply the rules of procedure in terms of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure, including the rules on intervention in judicial proceedings. In our view, the Industrial Tribunal should have analysed in more detail whether or not GWU possessed the necessary requisite interest in the dispute between MUBE and BOV in line with the general principles sourced in the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure. This is necessary to make sure that GWU’s right to a fair hearing was not violated.

This preliminary decision was delivered by the Industrial Tribunal on 2 October 2014. The case on the interpretation of the collective agreement is currently being heard on the merits.

The Industrial Tribunal has in the meantime delivered a final decision on 20 October 2014 in separate, but related proceedings initiated by BoV against MUBE and GWU. In that decision it confirmed that GWU possessed the majority of the employees in question as its members.

If you have any queries in relation to the above, please contact our Employment Law Team. Key contacts are Dr Matthew Brincat and Dr Clement Mifsud Bonnici.