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18 June 1998

First trade union analysis of employment white paper published
The Labour Research Department (LRD) has today published the first trade union critique of the government's employment white paper Fairness at Work.

Entitled Will "fairness" work?, this LRD booklet has three main sections which look at the white paper's proposals on trade union and collective rights, rights for individual employees and family-friendly policies. Each section describes the proposals, explains how the proposed new legislation would operate and analyses the implications for trade unionists and the extent to which the proposals fulfil union aspirations for change.

The white paper is the first major proposal for legislation in almost two decades which is not anti-union and as such it represents an important step forward for those campaigning for improved individual and collective rights at the workplace. There is a great deal to welcome in the white paper, in particular the commitment to bring about improvements in unfair dismissal and maternity rights as well as in new rights to union recognition.

However it also true to say that in many cases the proposals represent the least radical option for change and that in some cases they run the risk of proving ineffective. On the proposal for parental leave for example, the right for parents to take up to three months' leave anytime between a child's birth and its eighth birthday is welcome However the fact that there is no proposal to fund such leave means that relatively few employees will benefit from this new right. Likewise while the right of strikers to take unfair dismissal claims to an industrial tribunal is a step forward, the proposed new law would have been more effective if such dismissals were to be made automatically unfair.

The booklet concludes that ultimately the success of the forthcoming legislation will be judged not simply in the legal changes which it brings about but in the extent to which it helps mould and shape collective bargaining, for example on recognition agreements and parental leave.

LRD hopes, therefore that its new booklet will not only inform trade unionists about the shape and implications of the new legislation but will assist trade union negotiators to develop the new bargaining agenda that it will foster.

Notes to editors

Will "fairness" work? - LRD's guide to the employment white paper is published by the Labour Research Department, 78 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8HF, price ?2.55 or ?10 for non-labour movement bodies.
LRD Booklets are also available on subscription at an annual cost of ?24.50 (?62.85 for non-labour movement bodies). LRD publishes 11 booklets a year.
The Labour Research Department is an independent trade union and labour movement organisation founded 83 years ago. More than 2,000 trade union organisations, including 54 national unions, representing 99% of total TUC membership are affiliated.
For further information contact Sonia Mckay on 0171 902 9827.

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