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Vol 21 No 11 Nov/Dec 2016

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Fairness at Work: A Critical Analysis of the Employment Relations Act 1999 and its Treatment of Collective Rights

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Claire Kilpatrick, Paul Skidmoreboth Lecturers in Law, University of Bristol, Tonia Novitz

ISBN13: 9781841130835
ISBN: 1841130834
Published: March 2001
Publisher: Hart Publishing
Country of Publication: UK
Format: Paperback
Price: £36.00



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From the White Paper on Fairness at Work,it seemed that the enhanced protection of “collective rights” was central to New Labour’s industrial relations settlement. Reforms were promised relating to diverse matters such as blacklisting, discrimination against trade union members, trade union recognition and industrial action. Moreover, the Blair Government sought to portray trade unions as suitable representatives of workers in the context of grievance and disciplinary procedures, appropriate recipients of information and consultation and potential contributors to a new “culture of labour relations”. This culture was encapsulated in the term “partnership”.

This book examines the rhetorical claims made in the White Paper (and later in Parliament) alongside the actual reforms contained in the Employment Relations Act 1999. These developments are studied in their broader context, including Britain’s recent industrial relations history and the perceived need to find a “third way” which navigates between pre-existing Labour and Conservative ideologies. The pressures placed on British policies by international and European organisations are considered as are the other social, political and economic dynamics which shaped the Government’s policies. A detailed account of the new statutory provisions is provided, together with an analysis of their potential impact.

A careful and detailed analysis of these reforms reveals the limitations of New Labour’s industrial agenda. Ironically, these legislative changes are primarily individualistic in their orientation. It is the individual employer and employee who constitute the chief parties to the new “partnership” which is to be the employment relationship. Trade unions are not “social partners” essential to the protection of workers’ interests but, rather, potentially useful mediators who must prove their value by acting responsibly and co-operatively. Additional rights and protections are bestowed on the individual trade union member, but the trade-off would seem to be greater responsibilities for trade unions. Ultimately, individual choice is given priority over collective bargaining and action. The difficulties which will arise from such a limited agenda are explored here.

This book is intended to have a broad readership. It will be of interest to academics and students of labour law, industrial relations, politics and related disciplines. Its aim is to give them an opportunity to place in context what New Labour is doing in the field of employment law and what it is not prepared to do. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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Subjects:
Employment Law
Contents:
Introduction: the case for ""collective rights""; the pressures on New Labour - ""no going back"", a flexible and efficient labour market, appeasing the employer and trade union lobby; the ""solution"" presented by ""partnership"" - its dimensions - who are the partners?, the centrality of individual ""choice"", the ""voluntary"" aspect of partnership, partnership as a non-confliction relations, rights and responsibilities; the application of these principles in the Employment Relations Act 1999. Individual rights to freedom of association: introduction; the right to be accompanied in disciplinary and grievance hearings - the content of the right, support for trade unions?, improving workplace relations?; protection from blacklisting - weaknesses of the blacklisting provisions, strengthening freedom of association?; protection for trade union members against discrimination - the Wilson/Palmer litigation, acts versus omissions, incentives to contract out of collective bargaining; protection for workers in the recognition process; rights of striking employees to protection from unfair dismissal - participation in industrial action after the Tory years, circumscribed New Labour protection, implications for partnership; conclusion. Trade union autonomy: introduction; independence of trade unions under international and domestic law; democratic procedures within trade unions - historical background, international labour standards, the refusal to return to self-regulation; scrutiny of trade union governance - CRTUM, CPAUIA and the Certification Officer, the rationale for reform; conclusion. Trade union recognition and derecognition: introduction; historical and political context - ""mistakes of the past"" - the historical legacy, the ""joint statement"" of the TUC and CBI - the political ""trade-off""; the content of Schedule A1 - procedures for achieving trade union recognition and derecognition, the consequences for collective bargaining, enforcement of the collective agreement relating to terms and conditions of employment, the institutional actors in the statutory recognition procedure; conclusion - the implications of Schedule A1. Industrial action: introduction; the failure to introduce a positive right to strike; trade union responsibility for protection from dismissal; the scope of statutory immunity for trade unions - the lawful aims of industrial action, changes to balloting and notification requirements; conclusion. A revised role for trade unions - information, consultation, representation and partnership: introduction; information and consultation of recognised trade unions - training, transfers of undertakings and collective redundancies, European Works Councils; trade unions to ""accompany"" individuals; the partnership fund; conclusion. Conclusion: new labour's ""partnership"" - the role envisaged for trade unions. (Part Contents).