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Rebordering Britain & Britons after Brexit

Collective Bargaining, Equality and Migration: The Journey to and from Brexit

Abstract

Bob Simpson has documented the evolution of collective labour laws in the 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 European Union (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 EU States of the dangers of dismantling systems of sectoral bargaining and mechanisms for extension of collective agreements.

Journal

Industrial Law Journal

Author

Tonia Novitz (United Kingdom)

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