RMT lose age discrimination case brought by union member

The Employment Appeal Tribunal has this week upheld the decision of an employment tribunal that the RMT union directly  discriminated against a union member when, by applying its own union rules, it refused the member the opportunity to stand for the union’s national executive committee (NEC) because of the member’s age.

In RMT v Lloyd the case concerns Anthony Lloyd, an RMT representative. In 2017 the union sought nominations for candidates to stand in an election for the union’s NEC, Mr Lloyd was nominated to stand by two union branches. However, the union rule’s had a clause which stated that:

Subject to complying with all other requirements imposed within the rules, every member seeking nomination in an election must be able to complete the full period of office required of the elected position prior to reaching the normal retirement age: which will not be later than reaching the age of 65 years.

Because Mr Lloyd was of an age where he would not complete the three year term before reaching the age of 65 years the RMT wrote to him to exclude him from eligibility to stand in the national election. The reason for this clearly unfavourable treatment is clearly by reason of age and so it was alleged that the RMT had directly discriminated because of age. However, since age is the only protected characteristic for which there can be justification for  the case turned on whether there was a legitimate aim for the policy which the tribunal decided could not be established. It is noteworthy that this policy was however recently reaffirmed by the union’s conference in 2015.

The RMT policy itself strikes me as wholly unconvincing, especially given there are ample ways the purported aim of inter generational fairness could be achieved by less extreme means, especially given the union’s principal rule (along with most union’s) to oppose all unfair discrimination.

However, the case is a relatively rare one whereby a union is sued for discrimination, especially by a union activist but is a good reminder that, as a trade association of workers the union itself can be subject to a discrimination claim by persons who are not employed by the union under section 57(2)(d) of the Equality Act 2010.