By Prof Tonia Novitz, Professor of Labour Law (University of Bristol Law School).*
There has been considerable concern expressed regarding the employment rights that British workers would lose by virtue of Brexit. But this is not straightforwardly the case in respect of collective labour rights. Although European Union (EU) directives offer some protection of collective labour rights, national trade union freedoms regarding collective action have arguably been undermined (rather than bolstered) by EU hard and soft law. This means that the worker and trade union case for resisting Brexit remains complicated. While the over-arching aim is to stay in the EU for the sake of many individual and some collective worker entitlements, reform remains on the agenda.
Significant collective labour rights could be lost should Brexit occur and the UK remove itself from the established social pillar of legislation established under EU law. EU directives protect information and consultation rights concerning redundancies and transfers of undertakings, as well as provide for collective representation through European works councils and in European companies. Further, collective agreements may shape the domestic application of EU norms such as working time or provide the basis for entitlements at work such as those for posted workers or workers taking parental leave. However, this is not the only possible narrative regarding collective labour rights in the EU. (more…)