Sibson v United Kingdom, 20 April 1993 [ECtHR]

Case no 14327/88

28. Mr Sibson alleged that, since United Kingdom law provided no meaningful remedy for a person, such as himself, who had suffered a detriment as a result of his not belonging to a particular trade union, he had been the victim of a violation of Article 11 (art. 11) of the Convention ...

This allegation was contested by the Government and was not accepted by a majority of the Commission.

29. In arriving at its conclusion in the case of Young, James and Webster that there had been a breach of Article 11 (art. 11), the Court held that although compulsion to join a particular trade union may not always be contrary to the Convention, a form of such compulsion which, in the circumstances of the case, strikes at the very substance of the freedom of association guaranteed by Article 11 (art. 11) will constitute an interference with that freedom (ibid., pp. 22-23, para. 55).

In the Court’s opinion, the facts of the present case are such that it can, as was argued by the Government but disputed by the applicant, be distinguished from that of Young, James and Webster. It notes in the first place that, unlike Mr Young, Mr James and Mr Webster (ibid., pp. 23-24, para. 57), Mr Sibson did not object to rejoining TGWU on account of any specific convictions as regards trade union membership (and he did in fact join another union instead). It is clear that he would have rejoined TGWU had he received a form of apology acceptable to him (see paragraphs 10-11 above) and that accordingly his case, unlike theirs, does not also have to be considered in the light of Articles 9 and 10 (art. 9, art. 10) of the Convention. Furthermore, the present case is not one in which a closed shop agreement was in force (see paragraph 12 above). Above all, the applicants in the earlier case were faced with a threat of dismissal involving loss of livelihood (see the judgment of 13 August 1981, Series A no. 44, p. 23, para. 55), whereas Mr Sibson was in a rather different position: he had the possibility of going to work at the nearby Chadderton depot, to which his employers were contractually entitled to move him (see paragraphs 10 and 14 above); their offer to him in this respect was not conditional on his rejoining TGWU; and it is not established that his working conditions there would have been significantly less favourable than those at the Greengate depot (see paragraph 25 above).

Having regard to these various factors, the Court has come to the conclusion that Mr Sibson was not subjected to a form of treatment striking at the very substance of the freedom of association guaranteed by Article 11 (art. 11).

30. There has accordingly been no violation of that provision. In these circumstances, it is not necessary to determine the questions reserved in paragraph 27 above.

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