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Young, James & Webster v. United Kingdom, 44 Eur.Ct.H.R. (ser. A) (1981)

Facts: The three applicants had been employed by British Rail for [unintelligible] years, 2 years and 18 years respectively before being dismissed by their employer because they refused to join the designated trade union under a closed shop agreement concluded the previous year between their employer, British Rail, and three railway unions. Mr. Young was ordered to join the TSSA or the NUR, Mr. James the NUR and Mr. Webster the TSSA or the NUR.

Holding: the ECHR found a violation of article 11 (right to associate) of the convention.

Reasoning: the Court stopped affirming that there was a general negative right of association which was guaranteed on the same footing as the positive right. However it ruled that the UK legislation that allowed dismissal for refusal to join a trade union was in breach of Article 11 of the European Convention since that Article gives to workers the freedom to choose whether to belong to a given trade union or not. It found that compulsion which "strike[s] at the very substance of the freedom," such as loss of livelihood for refusing to join a trade union, was incompatible with freedom of association.


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