Trade Union Recognition And Collective Bargaining

Read Complete Research Material


Decline In Trade Union Recognition And Collective Bargaining

Decline In Trade Union Recognition And Collective Bargaining

The question which Labour ministers must ponder, if they are to restore good relations with the trade unions at the same time as sidelining the continuing real influence of the 'hard left' in union councils, is whether unions are forever to be seen as bodies to be tightly controlled by government regulation. (Bowers, 2005) Are unions still to be regarded as conspirators in the law's eyes? The imposition of heavy, one-sided, and complex restrictions on traditional trade-union activities by Conservative governments in the 1980s signified a profound change of role by the state after decades of conflict. (Brown, 1986) But the fact that, after ten years of Labour governments, most of these restrictive laws have been retained underlines how far apart in outlook the two wings of 'the Labour movement' have grown. (Pelling, 1992)

The position taken by a British Labour government, almost alone in Europe, in standing out against extending workers' collective rights through the European Union's Charter of Fundamental Rights, shows how committed they have become to a model of the labour market light years from the philosophies of the party's founders. Yet 'New Labour' in government has been sympathetic to many union aims and has advanced the condition of many workers since 1997 through the minimum wage, unfair dismissal rights, recognition rights and so on. (Reid, 2005) But it has gained little credit for this, because it has simultaneously refused to address the bigger issue of collective rights, fearing the political fall-out from what would most likely be portrayed in the press as a restoration of trade-union power. (Pollert, 2009)

The question which trade-union activists must ponder is why there is so little media interest or public support for their many attempts to pressurise the government to repeal all the anti-union laws. In 2006, for example, a modestly-reforming private members' Trade Union Freedom Bill, though supported by well over a hundred MPs, sank without trace in the face of government hostility. Meanwhile, one would search far and wide to find journalistic or academic appreciation of the unions' many strengths and their contribution to our democracy over the centuries. So, it seems that matters are polarised between two mutually uncomprehending and dismissive perspectives, with little dialogue about how they might be reconciled. This paper is an attempt to argue the case for review and suggest possible ways forward. (Brown, 2008)

As the labour laws are very much a product of history, it is to history that we need to turn. Trade-union law is one of the most difficult parts of that history to disentangle. The subject is complex because British law has constantly changed while retaining allegiance to the same underlying common-law categories and concepts, e.g., the law of conspiracy, 'restraint of trade', contract and tort (civil wrongs). That complexity has been deepened by the negative form in which trade-union law has been framed, as 'immunity' from the normal common law rather ...
Related Ads