YOUNG, JAMES AND WEBSTER v. THE UNITED KINGDOM

CourtPlenary (European Court of Human Rights)
Judgment Date13 August 1981
ECLIECLI:CE:ECHR:1981:0813JUD000760176
Respondent StateUnited Kingdom
Application Number7601/76;7806/77
CounselN/A
Official Gazette PublicationA44
Applied Rules11;11-1;11-2;9;9-1;10;10-1;13;1
<a href="https://international.vlex.com/vid/convenio-europeo-libertades-fundamentales-67895138">ECHR</a>





COURT (PLENARY)







CASE OF YOUNG, JAMES AND WEBSTER v. THE UNITED KINGDOM


(Application no. 7601/76; 7806/77)







JUDGMENT




STRASBOURG


13 August 1981



In the case of Young, James and Webster,

The European Court of Human Rights, taking its decision in plenary session in application of Rule 48 of the Rules of Court and composed of the following judges:

Mr. G. WIARDA, President,

Mr. R. RYSSDAL,

Mr. M. ZEKIA,

Mr. J. CREMONA,

Mr. THÓR VILHJÁLMSSON,

Mr. W. GANSHOF VAN DER MEERSCH,

Mrs. BINDSCHEDLER-ROBERT,

Mr. D. EVRIGENIS,

Mr. G. LAGERGREN,

Mr. L. LIESCH,

Mr. F. GÖLCÜKLÜ,

Mr. F. MATSCHER,

Mr. J. PINHEIRO FARINHA,

Mr. E. GARCIA DE ENTERRIA,

Mr. L.-E. PETTITI,

Mr. B. WALSH,

Mr. M. SØRENSEN,

Sir Vincent EVANS,

Mr. R. MACDONALD,

Mr. C. RUSSO,

Mr. R. BERNHARDT,

and also Mr. M.-A. EISSEN, Registrar, and Mr. H. PETZOLD, Deputy Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 5 and 6 March and 25 and 26 June 1981,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on the last-mentioned date:

PROCEDURE

1. The case of Young, James and Webster was referred to the Court by the European Commission of Human Rights ("the Commission"). The case originated in two applications against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland lodged with the Commission in 1976 and 1977 under Article 25 (art. 25) of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("the Convention") by three United Kingdom citizens, Mr. Ian McLean Young, Mr. Noël Henry James and Mr. Ronald Roger Webster. The Commission ordered the joinder of the applications on 11 May 1978.

2. The Commission’s request was lodged with the registry on 14 May 1980, within the period of three months laid down by Articles 32 par. 1 and 47 (art. 32-1, art. 47). The request referred to Articles 44 and 48 (art. 44, art. 48) and to the declaration made by the United Kingdom recognising the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court (Article 46) (art. 46). The purpose of the Commission’s request is to obtain a decision from the Court as to whether or not the facts of the case disclose a breach by the respondent State of its obligations under Articles 9, 10, 11 and 13 (art. 9, art. 10, art. 11, art. 13) of the Convention.

3. The Chamber of seven judges to be constituted included, as ex officio members, Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice, the elected judge of British nationality (Article 43 of the Convention) (art. 43), and Mr. G. Balladore Pallieri, the President of the Court (Rule 21 par. 3 (b) of the Rules of Court). On 4 June 1980, the President drew bij lot, in the presence of the Registrar, the names of the five other members, namely Mr. G. Wiarda, Mr. J. Cremona, Mr. Thór Vilhjálmsson, Mr. R. Ryssdal and Mrs. D. Bindschedler-Robert (Article 43 in fine of the Convention and Rule 21 par. 4) (art. 43). Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice was subsequently replaced by Sir Vincent Evans (Rule 2 par. 3).

4. Mr Balladore Pallieri assumed the office of President of the Chamber (Rule 21 par. 5). He ascertained, through the Registrar, the views of the Agent of the Government of the United Kingdom ("the Government") and the Delegates of the Commission regarding the procedure to be followed. On 25 June 1980, he decided that the Agent should have until 25 September 1980 to file a memorial and that the Delegates should be entitled to file a memorial in reply within two months from the date of the transmission of the Government’s memorial to them by the Registrar. On 20 August, 24 October and 13 November, the President agreed to extend the first of these time-limits to 25 October, 14 November and 5 December 1980, respectively.

5. On 25 November 1980, the Chamber decided under Rule 48 to relinquish jurisdiction forthwith in favour of the plenary Court.

6. The Government’s memorial was received at the registry on 5 December 1980. On 4 February 1981, the Delegates transmitted to the Court a memorial which had been submitted to them on behalf of the applicants, and indicated that they reserved the right to present their own observations at the oral hearings.

On 29 January, the President instructed the Registrar to obtain certain documents from the Commission and from the Government. These documents were produced on 4 and 19 February, respectively.

7. After consulting, through the Registrar, the Agent of the Government and the Delegates of the Commission, Mr. Wiarda, who had been elected President of the Court following the death of Mr. Balladore Pallieri, directed on 10 February 1981 that the oral hearings should open on 3 March 1981.

Some further documents were filed by the Government on 27 February.

8. On 3 March immediately before the opening of the hearings, the Court held a preparatory meeting. On that occasion it decided proprio motu, in pursuance of Rule 38 par. 1 of the Rules of Court, that during the oral proceedings it would hear, on certain questions of fact (including English law and practice) and for the purpose of information, a representative of the British Trades Union Congress.

9. The oral hearings were held in public at the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on 3 and 4 March.

There appeared before the Court:

- for the Government:

Mr. D. EDWARDS, Legal Counsellor,

Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Agent,

Sir Ian PERCIVAL, Q. C., Solicitor-General,

Mr. S. BROWN, Barrister-at-Law,

Mr. N. BRATZA, Barrister-at-Law, Counsel,

Mr. H. STEEL, Law Officers’ Department,

Mr. J. BILLAM, Department of Employment,

Mr. C. TUCKER, Department of Employment,

Mr. N. MELLISH, Department of Employment, Advisers;

- for the Commission:

Mr. J. FAWCETT,

Mr. G. SPERDUTI,

Mr. J. FROWEIN, Delegates,

Mr. D. CALLCUTT, Q. C., and Mr. C. KOLBERT and Mr. C. MITCHELL-HEGGS, Barristers-at-Law,

assisting the Delegates (Rule 29 par. 1, second sentence,

of the Rules of Court).

The Court heard the Delegates and those assisting them, Sir Ian Percival for the Government and also, in accordance with its decision of 3 March, Lord Wedderburn of Charlton, Barrister-at-Law, Professor of Law in the University of London, for the Trades Union Congress.

10. The Delegates of the Commission filed various documents during the hearings, including one entitled "memorial (submissions on fact and law) of the Trades Union Congress". The Court decided that it would take the latter document into account as regards any factual information, but not any arguments of law, which it contained.

11. In accordance with decisions taken by the Court after the hearings, the following documents were filed with the registry:

- on 3 April 1981, replies by the Government to certain questions put by the Court at the hearings to those appearing before it;

- on 6 April 1981, replies by the applicants to the aforesaid questions, together with their observations on the submissions made by Sir Ian Percival in his address to the Court;

- on 22 April 1981, observations of the applicants on the submissions made by Lord Wedderburn in his address to the Court and on issues of fact contained in the "memorial" mentioned at paragraph 10 above;

- on 11 May 1981, comments by the Government on the aforesaid observations filed on 6 April.

The documents emanating from the applicants were transmitted to the Court by the Commission’s Delegates.

AS TO THE FACTS

12. Mr. Young, Mr. James and Mr. Webster are former employees of the British Railways Board ("British Rail"). In 1975, a "closed shop" agreement was concluded between British Rail and three trade unions, providing that thenceforth membership of one of those unions was a condition of employment. The applicants failed to satisfy this condition and were dismissed in 1976. They alleged that the treatment to which they had been subjected gave rise to violations of Articles 9, 10, 11 and 13 (art. 9, art. 10, art. 11, art. 13) of the Convention.

I. GENERAL BACKGROUND AND DOMESTIC LAW

A. Closed shops and dismissal from employment

In general

13. In essence, a closed shop is an undertaking or workplace in which, as a result of an agreement or arrangement between one or more trade unions and one or more employers or employers’ associations, employees of a certain class are in practice required to be or become members of a specified union. The employer is not under any legal obligation to consult or obtain the consent of individual employees directly before such an agreement or arrangement is put into effect. Closed shop agreements and arrangements vary considerably in both their form and their content; one distinction that is often drawn is that between the "pre-entry" shop (the employee must join the union before engaged) and the "post-entry" shop (he must join within a reasonable time after being engaged), the latter being more common.

In the United Kingdom, the institution of the closed shop is of very long standing. In recent years, closed shop arrangements have become more formalised and the number of employees covered thereby has increased (3.75 million in the 1960’s and 5 million in 1980, approximately). Recent surveys suggest that in many cases the obligation to join a specified union does not extend to existing non-union employees.

The law in force until 1971

14. There was...

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