Collective bargaining, equality and migration: the journey to and from Brexit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
219 Downloads (Pure)


Bob Simpson has documented the evolution of collective labour laws in the United Kingdom (UK) over several decades and his scholarship reminds us of their intended and unintended consequences. In the highly politically charged context of the 2016 Brexit vote, this article considers how UK and EU laws have shaped the nature and scope of collective bargaining in the UK and, thereby, income differentials and equal treatment in the workplace. While it would be possible to provide for equality of treatment between local British and migrant labour in ways that reduce social tensions, instead we have witnessed the imposition of legal frameworks that place workers in a position of competition rather than solidarity. The mistrust of current forms of migration from the EU seems to have been one key part of the journey towards the Brexit vote. An important question is what comes afterwards. If Brexit does not proceed, we should be contemplating reform at both UK and EU levels; but the problems identified here seem unlikely to evaporate in the event of either ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ Brexit. The article concludes that the UK situation offers a salutary reminder to other European Union (EU) States of the dangers of dismantling systems of sectoral bargaining and mechanisms for extension of collective agreements.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-133
Number of pages25
JournalIndustrial Law Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017

Structured keywords

  • Global Political Economy
  • Perspectives on Work
  • LAW Brexit


  • collective bargaining
  • equality
  • migration
  • Brexit

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