At first glance, the Employment Relations Act 2004 contains an extensive but incoherent mix of statutory reforms, which have diverse implications for collective bargaining. How then are we to make sense of the Government's objectives? The focus of this paper is the explanation offered under the label of 'partnership'. It seems that we are to understand the selection of these items for reform as the result of 'partnership in policy-making', while the outcome of any reform is to be 'partnership in the workplace'. (See Patricia Hewitt's statement in the House of Commons on the second reading of the Employment Relations Bill, Hansard, 14 January 2004, vol. 416, col. 819.) Both dimensions of partnership are considered in this paper, for both raise fundamental questions, such as, who are the partners and what influence are they entitled to wield? What emerges is that the language of partnership is highly malleable, having different meanings in different contexts. While this enduring rhetorical device is presented by the Government as the basis of a principled approach to protection of the rights of workers and employers, it may be more a reflection of a pragmatic, albeit complex, political compromise. In this paper, problems linked to the rhetoric of partnership are investigated with regard to various aspects of the Employment Relations Act relevant to collective bargaining. These include measures taken relating to discrimination on grounds of trade union membership, the statutory recognition procedure, and protection of strikers from unfair dismissal. The significance of the new 'union modernisation fund' will also be considered, in comparison with the 'partnership fund' created by the 1999 Act.
|Translated title of the contribution||The Employment Relations Act 2004 and its Implications for Collective Bargaining: Problems of Partnership|
|Title of host publication||SLS Annual Conference, Stathclyde University, Glasgow|
|Publication status||Published - 2005|
Bibliographical noteName and Venue of Event: Labour Law group, SLS Annual Conference, 2005
Conference Organiser: Lucy Vickers/SLS